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  1. #41
    Utopia or Abeline?


    What is the meaning of Abeline?
    "What our fish really cost us now is not the positive labour-pain expressed by the number 10 — for this we should have undergone at any rate — but the negative loss of an enjoyment which we might have had, indicated by the number 12."
    Abstinence makes the hare grow fonder

    "Bern" it down Prop it up

    No Child Left Behind Alive; (White) Race To The Top

    H for America: The White Devil you know is better than the White Devil you don't.

    "..superiority lies with him who was reared in the severest school"
    -Thucydides

  2. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by Kid of the Black Hole View Post
    What is the meaning of Abeline?[/COLOR]
    "There is a phrase common in military culture; *the bus to Abeline*. Its also referenced a lot in management courses and the like. Basically, it goes like this…as explained by Retired Colonel Stephen Gerras:"

    “A family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day, and somebody says, ‘I’m bored. Why don’t we go to Abilene?’ When they get to Abilene, somebody says, ‘You know, I didn’t really want to go.’ And the next person says, ‘I didn’t want to go–I thought you wanted to go,’ and so on. Whenever you’re in an army group and somebody says, ‘I think we’re getting on the bus to Abilene here,’ that is a red flag. You can stop a conversation with it.”
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  3. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by Dhalgren View Post
    Yeah, I don't really buy the "contradiction". Boxing, wrestling, other contact competitions have been held, viewed, and enjoyed for as long as there have been Human Beings. The idea that these exhibitions are exclusively masculine is not born out by close inspection and has become a kind of "caveman taunt" by the more "advanced" commentators. There were always near as many women as men in the bleachers of the Coliseum and football stadiums today are no different. The idea that because someone can get hurt participating in an activity the "normal" person, therefore, should want that activity ended certainly does not extend to mining or logging or rough-necking or farming or any of the innumerous jobs that everyone knows will consistently, kill or injure people performing them. "Accidents" on the job are no less predictable than head injuries in football, but no one wants to ban mining or logging, and no one voices any kind of "contradictions" involved in these activities (except may, some of us). I may be an absolute Neanderthal (almost no doubt), but the art of Mohammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard is of a higher level than a lot of the "art" I've seen in museums.

    Human Beings live in a world where death and injury are inevitable, they are constants, they always have been part of our existence. Wanting people not to get hurt doesn't make you a "pussy", but thinking that there is a remedy for people getting hurt and dying makes you unrealistic, maybe, or, at least, not materialistic.
    Missed this the first time around. Now you're getting to the heart of why partisanship and ideology -- CLASS partisanship and ideology -- are so important. Before you can focus on what matters, you have to ASCERTAIN what matters.

    As much as you guys may disagree, everything we've been trying to do for the last decade has revolved around HOW to accomplish the first part (ascertaining). Translating that into the actual doing is when Jewish schoolgirls get their wings.

    One day you'll all get very nice perfumed invitations to my Bat Mitzvah. I'll be a very different sort of Bat Man -- my secret identity will be Bruce Wax.
    "What our fish really cost us now is not the positive labour-pain expressed by the number 10 — for this we should have undergone at any rate — but the negative loss of an enjoyment which we might have had, indicated by the number 12."
    Abstinence makes the hare grow fonder

    "Bern" it down Prop it up

    No Child Left Behind Alive; (White) Race To The Top

    H for America: The White Devil you know is better than the White Devil you don't.

    "..superiority lies with him who was reared in the severest school"
    -Thucydides

  4. #44
    An excerpt from Steppling's latest, 'Utopia or Abeline?'
    I don't know whether it's the subject matter or his being a little pissed-off, but this is the best I've read from John, so far. It was all clear and on the ground - no cloud flying, here. And he was almost totally dead-on.
    "America was never great"

    "Anyone who analyzes the state of affairs in the world will find that it is the imperialists and capitalists, who subject the world to the worst poverty, the worst backwardness, and they are simply the scourge of mankind." - Fidel

    "Privilege begets psychopathy" - blindpig

  5. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Dhalgren View Post
    I don't know whether it's the subject matter or his being a little pissed-off, but this is the best I've read from John, so far. It was all clear and on the ground - no cloud flying, here. And he was almost totally dead-on.
    The subject matter, I think. Art & philosophy fly over my head. Sometimes I think I'm retarded or something. Other times I think they're just blowing smoke up my ass.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  6. #46
    Dreaming of Pirates, part 2 (or Capitalism and Fun)
    JULY 3, 2016 | LEAVE A COMMENT


    Franz Xavier Messerschmidt

    “Death is especially awkward for modern intellectuals who are likely to find themselves swept over by traditions they fought and measured themselves against.”
    Michael Taussig

    “The barbarism of the present was already germinating in that period, whose concept of beauty showed the same devotion to the licked-clean which the carnivore displays toward his prey. With the advent of National Socialism, a bright light is cast on the second half of the nineteenth century.”
    Walter Benjamin

    “Imperialism gripped the world as totality – a total market and completely exploitable productive source. Imperialism was unifying the world through trade routes and commodity exchange or plunder.”
    Esther Leslie

    This has been a particularly disturbing last eight or ten weeks. One senses a collective rupture in the psychic membrane that covers bourgeois society like a cheap condum. The first and primary symptom are the reactions to the Trump and Hillary electoral theatre. But almost as if ordained by cosmic correlation and parallelism, the Brexist vote comes in with an unexpected *leave* verdict. And I think the public response, the social response to both of these narratives has been one of near psychosis. Many many people I know, and many of whom I like, and many who I genuinely respect and even admire, have seemed to have come unhinged. There is an obvious layer of white affluent condescension regarding Brexit; how dare the multitudes not vote as Empire wished them to vote. My first response to that was why do these white liberal clerks to power *want* a continuation of the EU? As if suddenly we are to believe they care about racism and xenophobia? But the second storyline here is related to my last post on Duende, and the Orlando shootings. And on the public outcry of faux grief. And Andrew Wimmer comes along with a very good piece here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/01/killer-grief/


    Paul McDonough, photography (Priest with dark glasses, NYC 1970).

    But many of the people I know and respect are coming out with strangely unreasonable positions on all this. And I suspect this has to do with a kind of cultural failure. A society that cannot rise above the level of Game of Thrones or Harry Potter culturally, is one that may well have a hard time integrating the deep and complex emotions of mass death and violence. And several artists have come to mind during this period. Hilton Als has a nice article at the NYRB on Agnes Martin. And Martin, in retrospect, simply gets better and better. The second artist is Franz Xavier Messerschmidt the 18th century Bavarian born sculptor. Often when people first see one of Messerschmidt’s bronze or tin alloy busts they assume, with good reason, that this is a contemporary artist. For the madness of Messerschmidt is a very contemporary madness. His is the madness of the Enlightenment.

    “There is an infinite sadness to the art of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Perhaps it is the lead and tin alloy from which he created his grey-glinting heads that weighs on the soul. Perhaps it is the resemblance to death masks that haunts his microscopically detailed reproductions of human physiognomy. But more likely it is the prison of his mental illness whose door slams on you as you are drawn into his extravagant monomaniac vision.”
    Jonathan Jones

    Messerschmidt somehow feels very contemporary, the *hyper-realism effect* that is really a subtle exaggeration of certain aspects of physiognomy, creates a sense of self absorbed mania. But Jones is right when he suggests the connection to death. The sense of theses busts as death masks is acute. And this in turn reminds me of Antonio Gaudi’s death, and Benjamin’s own death, and finally it links in a way to Agnes Martin. For Martin was that most hermetic and solitary of painters, and one who, in her own words, turned her back on the world. And Martin is the artist, to my mind, who most connects to the sorrow of societally unintegrated grieving. The inability to grieve sort of kicks the grief can a bit further down the road. Gaudi died in the pauper section of a hospital because he was mistaken for a beggar. As if beggars deserve no better. And Benjamin’s death which now has resulted in a small cottage industry. In fact, Benjamin’s death fits neatly into his Arcades project. If the arcades were built for Napoleon’s return from Egypt, they were also the repository of colonial looting and conquest and subjugation. All was put on display, as display itself was put on display and as those strolling through the arcades became part of the displayed plunder. Today, Benjamin’s own death feeds the niche market of academic post graduate writing, and by extension today a kind of regressive political identification with the status quo. That status quo that allows stipends of a sort, enough, to keep the younger professional academic from the street.

    [/img]http://john-steppling.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/agnes-martin-sos-e1467432429790.jpg[/img]
    Agnes Martin, in her studio, apprx 1953.

    Benjamin said that death sanctioned everything the storyteller has to say. And yet, today, the erosion of narrative — both its creation, and more importantly, its interpretation, is acute. You would think the constant reminder of death would elevate a structural relationship to the subject, but quite the opposite has happened.
    Esther Leslie, writing on Benjamin….“Such a task is undertaken by Benjamin in a lecture for children from 1930. ‘Rental Barracks’ is an exploration of the architecture of Berlin, drawing on the work of Werner Hegemann in Das Steinernde Berlin. It begins by noting how the city’s forms have emerged from military needs. Since the reign of the Hohenzollerns, Berlin has been a military city and, at points, a third of its population was connected to the army, either as soldiers or their dependents. In the early days, the soldiers and their families were billeted in the homes of other Berliners, but by the late eighteenth century there were too many to house this way. Barracks were built for combatants and their families, and all remained inside these structures under virtual house arrest. The architectural solution of the barracks, Benjamin goes on, was adopted across the city, as Frederick the Great commanded the city be built into the sky to house a growing population. The Prussian military state condemned many people to overcrowding, lack of air and light and miserable housing conditions.”


    Adam Pendleton

    The military and architecture, the military and capitalism. These are trajectories in which can be found the hidden tracings of collective insanity in Western society. Today, the presence of the military in the U.S. is hegemonic, it occupies every representation, every story. Everything. Hollywood has not made an anti war film since, perhaps, Sidney Lumet’s The Hill (1965). Today, the token anti war film is rarely that, and more a dissection of bad apple syndrome. There has been a pronounced…drastic increase, really….in depictions of camaraderie and loyalty among those in uniform. There is never NEVER a criticism of the uniform. Never. There is a fawning obsequience demonstrated to those who wear uniforms as well as a validating of all expressions of unthinking obedience. Much is made of *yessir* and *no sir* and the like. Hollywood has come to almost traffic in subtle sado masochist ritual. Even a film such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, would today seem wildly subversive.

    The point is that capitalism has reached a point of incoherence, from a theoretical point of view. The irrationality of a society that pits (what James Petras calls) a political psychopath against a clownish misogynist millionaire celebrity, and have the greater fear directed at the clown is a society that is now engaged in an auto pilot self analysis. Everything feels as it is a bit of psycho drama. In social media I am daily appalled at the expressions — pitched at the level of hysteria — of fear and desperation regarding Trump. And this is from otherwise very intelligent and educated people. Now, it is not that fearing Trump is wrong in and of itself, but that it is wrong to so little fear Hillary Clinton, to not include in this reaction of horror the figure of death that is Hillary Rodham Clinton. For if anyone needs to feared it is Hillary.


    Gregor Hildebrandt

    But perhaps the problem resides exactly there. The figure of Death. The Enlightenment began a long process of instrumentalizing thought, of cateloguing and measuring and defining. And science came to be more than just an effective tool for solving and even controlling Nature. It became a cult. And it began to harbor secrets the better to imbue its high priests with special gifts and powers. At the same time, the removing of religious dogma removed not just the irrational, but the very idea of ritual. Ritual space was lost, and with it a part of social history.

    “…with the occurrence of death a dismal period begins
    for the living during which special duties are imposed upon
    them. Whatever their personal feelings may be, they have
    to show sorrow for a certain period, change the colour of
    their clothes and modify the pattern of their usual life.”

    Robert Hertz


    Chris Keeney, photography.

    The shootings in Orlando, and the Brexit vote are connected. And they are connected by the reactions of the bourgeoisie in the West. The shallowness, the superficiality of the collective. Without meaningful rituals the best the educated classes can up with are calls for gun control, calls that are expressed with an almost religious intoxication. A kind of zealotry almost. The affluent gay white male in the U.S. is one caught in a class contradiction, in a sense. There is, as Andrew Wimmer pointed out, a reflexive appeal to the police, to the uniforms. And how deeply that identification or attraction goes is anyone’s guess. And two a mourning for those shot at the gay nightclub Pulse. Shot by the son of a crazy zealot father. Again, assuming the cover story is the truth. But there is no solidarity with the Israeli occupation and incremental genocide of Palestinians. No solidarity with those caught in the U.S. gulag prison system. No solidarity with the victims of right wing militarism in places such as Honduras — courtesy of a coup designed by Hillary Clinton and Obama. Why? Most gay white men and women I know, and most polls I’ve read, suggest overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton.

    On social media the last few weeks I have read the increasingly shrill white knuckle writings of the half educated phantom middle classes in America. The barely employed or half employed who toil in acute anxiety all the time. ALL THE TIME, but who identify with the imaginary country that Hillary Clinton has drawn up for them. I knew someone who once said, apropos of LA Dodger’s iconic broadcaster Vin Scully, “I want to live in Vin’s world”. And I understood that. It was a happy place of normalcy. Well, for the marginally educated Hillary’s world holds a lot more appeal than Donald’s world. But this is all illusion. And why is it not read as illusion? Id suggest because everything is illusion and hence most people seemingly cannot distinguish.

    This does not account for the serious critics of Empire who seem to have lost sense of proportion regarding Donald Trump. But the same logic is at work in the reactions to Brexit. And it is in these reactions that one can really gauge the contempt that the liberal class has for the poor. How dare they not vote as they should! There is no winner in the Brexit referendum, but the vote at least was an expression of genuine anger. Often at the wrong people, certainly, but still a call of anger. And that is something. And yet for many, if not most Americans the vote was being discussed as a huge blunder. For whom? It is a neo colonial mind set that is very slowly surfacing in this — the trace memories of the plantation overlord. The chain gang boss. You do as you are told boy.

    [/img]http://john-steppling.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/18_Museum_Of_Childhoods_Small_Stories_Exhibition-e1467459263270.jpg[/img]
    Victoria & Albert Museum. Small Stories; History of Dollhouses. 2016.

    And when I say that culture intersects in a meaningful way here, I think it is worth going back to Agnes Martin and Messerschmidt again. What an Agnes Martin achieved was not accidental. Hers was a story not unlike any number of other major 20th century painters, of difficult childhoods in wide open spaces. The west and mid-Western (and in Martin’s case the Canadian prairies) plains and deserts were the places of spiritual pilgrimage for countless artists. Martin was also linked to a generation of gay artists in NYC (she lived at Coenties Slip for almost a decade) such as Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and Jasper Johns. But Martin was the least interested in fame or approval. And finally in people altogether. She lived most of her later years in rural New Mexico in a house she built herself, without electricity or TV or much of anything else. And that distance, that quality of autistic psychological isolation is seen in the substantiality of her work. It is not, as Rosalind Kraus might have it, the thing and not the representation. Rather is is the thingness OF the representation. It is ur-painting. Now, what does this have to do with the Brexit vote or Omar Mateen, or Trump, you ask. Well, to answer that means to more deeply track the growth of mental illness and character disorders in the bourgeois West. For that is what I think, partly, is happening.

    “For Freud, every mental structure contains movement, in which a ‘psychic conflict’ can be isolated. Consequently, his idea of structure comes down to this immanent dynamic and not to some ahistorical constellation of rigid relations. The minimum of structural stability can be located in the processes of condensation and displacement, which find their linguistic equivalent in metaphor and metonymy.”
    Samo Tomsic


    Maik Wolf

    Tomsic’s term is one I quite like..’The Capitalist Unconscious’. This unconscious has found expression, increasingly, over time, in socially conditioned ways, with socially vetted structures.

    “Lacan introduced and deployed his controversial thesis that
    there was a wide-reaching homology between Marx’s deduction of surplus-value
    and Freud’s attempts to theorise the production of enjoyment. The production of
    value in the social apparatus and the production of enjoyment in the mental apparatus
    follow the same logic and eventually depend on the same discursive structure.”

    Samo Tomsic

    And this in turn relates to the unreality of death for contemporary westerners. And that unreality is part of what makes people crazy. The manufacture of enjoyment (and it is worth exploring enjoyment as distinct from distraction, etc) is compulsive today, and it becomes a search for tension, for ever more tension. The paradox of anxiety feeding off that which is compulsively sought.

    “Among the Dayak of southeast Borneo, the final resting place of the body is a small house, made entirely of ironwood, often finely carved, and raised on fairly high posts of the same material; such a monument is called sandong, and constitutes a family burial place which can hold a large number of people, and lasts many years.”
    Robert Hertz


    Thomas Ruff, photography.

    There was a show at The Victoria and Albert Museum (also, perhaps coincidentally, reviewed in the NYRB) on the history of dollhouses. This exhibition focuses on mostly Victorian English miniatures, but there is a place for such shows on north German and French miniatures, too, certainly. Dollhouses are death houses, which is why children play with them. Boys can’t play with dolls in the West, but they do, only they call them *action figures* with names such as G.I. Joe and the like. I remember having a castle I quite liked when I was a boy. And little molded plastic soldiers to move around in said castle. But the point is, the overriding import of miniatures is, so I believe, death. When Hertz (whose book on death remains essential reading) writes of the Dayak people of what was then Borneo, the rituals of burial included transformative effects for the living. Periods of being forsaken and shunned, and then later, if later, reintegrated into the societal fabric. The dead do not live on, they reside in death, as death, in their funeral homes on stilts. One of the curious factors in Western Christian notions of death is the idea of manufacturing a false eternity for the departed. So many Western rituals are based on creating an eternity — it is a massive denial of death’s finality. It is not exactly eternity, however. It is a kind of kitsch after life, the point of which is to mediate and lessen the need for grief. And hence, western art is always dealing with very sharp and pointed representations of death, both intentional and unintentional. All these factors are coming together, I think, in a new social madness. The creation of doll houses is the pursuit of domination mediated by a hidden violence I associate with the sentimental.

    How to explain the conversations one has, and the Op Ed pieces one reads, the over all discourse on event such as Brexit? Or on Hillary. Or gun control. I mean the bourgeoisie in the West, meaning mostly the U.S., are terrified of their own terror and feelings of contempt, for the underclass. This mock middle class congratulates itself in various cultural production for its tolerance and values, but all the while a deep seated terror is driving toward the surface (as it were). And the natural reaction is to repress such unacceptable ideas. But my suspicion is that these mechanisms of repression no longer work. The educated white liberal class fears its own animal nature, but even more it fears that all people are bad and savage and eventually will become marauding hordes (ISIS essentially).

    The manufacture of enjoyment is pathological under Capitalism. It is also, perhaps, not very enjoyable.

    “Capitalism is inscribed in the mental apparatus—this was already Freud’s insight,
    when he found the best metaphor for unconscious desire in none other than the
    capitalist, meaning that psychoanalysis began with a fundamental critical and political
    insight rooted in the rejection of the opposition “unconscious—conscious” or
    “private—social.” The unconscious is no archive or reservoir of unclear representations
    and forgotten memories; it is a site of discursive production.”

    Samo Tomsic


    Simon Boudvin

    And this is not a matter of ideological position, or opinion; it is, regardless of opinion, the intensity of the expression. I have never in my life felt so many people wanting to fight over the slightest disagreement. There is a growing sense of panic.

    “So, too, Death, repressed through medicine and hygiene, has reinfected our sexuality with a hitherto unheard of virulence…finally, accompanied by anxiety, despair, and violence, death has gained a foothold within the psyche itself. The forces of destruction and self-destruction, latent in each individual and society, have been reactivated in our anonymous urban milieusl multiplying and amplifying the solitude and anxiety of individuals, disinhibiting a violence that becomes the banal expression of protest, rejection and revolt.”
    Edgar Morin


    Hede Xandt

    The legacy of the Enlightenment has meant that, as Morin puts it, a paradigm of disjunction/reduction controls our thinking. And this has led, in a general sense, to an isolating of objects and phenomenon from not just their environments but from history.

    “Conformism here refers to the energies of conventional interpretation.
    These ensnare tradition and the receivers of tradition in
    tales devised, or at least approved, by the ruling class and its
    ideology-mongers. The accumulated experience of the oppressed
    is overwritten in histories that re-transmit the existing balance of
    power: business as usual.”

    Esther Leslie (Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism)

    Today, it feels as if this overwriting that Leslie describes is no longer legible. The status quo is writing in invisible ink. But more, there is an inability to actually practice interpretation. On a rudimentary level this is the result of decades of disinformation in mass media. The age of marketing and spin has inured the public to distinctions of historical fact. The world is viewed from the subject position of someone watching their favorite TV show. And this is partly my appeal for the importance of artists such as Agnes Martin. And there are of course many others. It was Benjamin who, following the failure of the Spartakus revolt, began to seriously investigate the influence of technology (Tecknik) and the assumptions about the idea of progress. And as Leslie points out, he prioritized the role of culture and art as a form of training for revolution. In this sense he was quite in accord with Adorno, however much they may have disagreed about specifics. What mattered, thought Benjamin, was coming to understand the relations of production, and the conditionings of mass culture.


    Dinh Q. Le

    “Benjamin warns that the 1914–18 war cast just the shadow of a brutality soon to be superbly outbid. The armies of the future will deploy technologies of far greater destructiveness; troops will be immeasurably more sadistic and bloodthirsty; war will be total, and inescapable – it will be fought by new technological means.”
    Esther Leslie

    This echos Enzo Traverso’s reading of the first world war as the defining shift in humanity and its relationship to technology. Human relationships were being subsumed by the anonymity of technology. Benjamin came to see that a level of anger was necessary to cut through the conditioning of disinformation in mass culture. And this seems particularly relevant just now. One of the primary characteristics of contemporary Western society — or the contemporary bourgeoisie, is an expression of false courtesy. The panic that is gripping the societies of the West is under pressure to appear polite and reasonable. And this is not unrelated to how technology has come to create new ways of remembering (or not remembering). For we (those of us old enough) are exiles from our own history. The world of even fifty years ago is only a distant memory and a memory that contemporary culture works overtime to erase. For what has changed culturally over the last fifty years in the West, certainly in the U.S., is acute, but it is also constantly being obfuscated. We are being told over and over to not remember. That memory is suspect. And so it is, but not in the way corporate owned media would have us believe.


    Mathias Olmeta, photography.

    This false politeness is, however, it should be noted, mostly an illusion. But it does remain a kind of weird ideal. For the tenor of discourse on social media is awash in a kind of hysterical demand for agreement. And as a sort of side bar note, the meme about Democrats being inherently, no matter what, better than Republicans is one that is seemingly indelible. But I digress…for this sense of being exiled from one’s own past was prophetically outlined by Benjamin, and by Karl Kraus and Kracauer both. It was Kraus who saw the reporting of the first world war and the manner in which the subject shifted from the war to the coverage of the war. Benjamin pointed to the erosion of language, and most specifically the spoken word, in this mediation of the event by a press that in the hands of the wealthy. For Benjamin the mediation itself was not the problem. Rather, the mediation was inevitable, but memory could still be rescued. The fulcrum for representation of reality was the 1920s — for Benjamin saw the substitution of the snap shot memory by a cinematic memory. And this cinematic memory was more artificial. For experience is not processed in any kind of real continuity, but rather is fragmented and non linear. The Freudian idea of the unconscious was one out of time. The implications are enormous, if Benjamin was correct. Today I suspect people DO remember in cinematic terms, and it perhaps accounts for the rise of uncanny experience in still photography.

    “The youth experience of a generation has much in common with
    the experience of dreams. Its historical form is a dream form.
    Every epoch possesses a side turned towards dreams, the child
    side.”

    Benjamin

    The sense of panic, of exaggerated tension — the same one sees in Hollywood film and TV — is expressed as something of unique importance. It is always the most important election, the most important speech, the most important decision, and so forth. For anything less does not rise to the level of enjoyment. This very particular late Capitalist *enjoyment*.

    And Leslie quotes from a late letter of Benjamin..
    [img]“The objects given by monastic discipline to friars for the purpose
    of meditation were designed to turn them away from the world
    and its affairs. The train of thought that we are pursuing here
    emerges out of similar considerations. It intends to free the
    political worldling from the ensnaring nets of those politicians
    in whom hope had been placed that they would be opponents
    of fascism, but who in this moment lie flat on their backs,
    affirming their defeat with the betrayal of their cause.”[/i]


    Paul WInstanley

    Agnes Martin’s phrase of turning her back on the world seems very apt today. For as Leslie noted, to Benjamin, the classless society is not the end of progress but rather its interruption. And such an interruption was also, it seems, what Guy Debord and the Situationists sensed was crucial to waking from the nightmare. Only now, the nightmare isn’t the cartoon theatre of western politics, but rather the inability of those caught in the nightmare to wake up. And unable to awake the dreamer flays about in desperation and demands of those in the same dream to reassure and verify that all is well. The industrial level use of anti-depressants and various other drugs, both legal and not, suggests that something is now breaking through that tissue of manufactured *reality* that is disseminated every minute of every day by the caretakers of unreality.

    The narratives of the state are uniform in their falseness. But they accompany representations of disproportionate official significance. The public senses, deep down, that this importance is not all that important. But to reflect on that fact fractures the cinematic process of enjoyment. Only the most excluded today are, at least partially, free of the directed dreaming. Prisoners, the homeless and insane, these are part of a demographic of no interest to the dream clinic. Consumption is pleasure. And everything becomes consumption. And consumption becomes manufacture, at a certain point.

    The cruelty of an occupied dream life is slowly dawning on a public that has accepted the cinematic portrayal of their own life. And there is a sense that this *enjoyment* idea is mostly just a kind of stress.

    Lorca wrote, in his essay on Duende….“The Duende does not come at all unless he sees that death is possible.” Lorca, in another essay on Deep Song, suggests the deep memory that is alive in Spanish and Gypsy music. The memory of ancient Arabian sensibility. Throughout his prose Lorca is consumed with images of graveyards and crypts, with funeral rituals, and with the collective memory of Spain. Such thinking is alien today. Artists search out business models and talk of brands. And the sudden fear that is in the air, a fear of *fascism*, a word scorned for decades, is driven by several things that are converging at once. One is guilt. An intuition that liberal collaboration has caused immeasurable suffering. And two, this recognition that we aren’t having fun. The endless efforts to dull these feelings has only served to intensify them.

    Hollywood produces endless films and TV that are *suspenseful*. There are music cues and rapid edits, and all manner of manipulation — all in the service of providing suspense. The effect is not really suspense, partly because of the familiarity of these techniques. Audiences anticipate what comes next. Some version of the same. This anticipatory phenomenon exists with cues on when to laugh, or cry, too. So, really, the audience for these cues is reading the cue representations as one might have read hieroglyphics. The tension or suspense in thriller films is not experienced, it is read.


    Tilman Riemenschneider, 15th century, Germany.


    Today there is a quality of this false suspense in electoral theatre. But more significantly there is a quality of this false suspense in daily life. The obsessive texting and checking for emails, the selfies and the billions of apps — it is micro suspenseful. At a mall recently, in Prague, I stood looking down from the railing on the third floor, at a coffee shop on the ground floor. Every table was taken and at every table sat someone looking at their smart phone. What were they seeing?

    Samo Tomsic in an essay Laughter and Capitalism …
    “But for Freud the unconscious processes were all about a specific form of labour. Operations like condensation and displacement are no simple automata; they demand a labouring subject, which, in the given regime knows only one form, labour-power. Hence, to talk about unconscious labour is far from innocent. Freud refers to the same economic reality and to the same conceptual apparatus as Marx.”

    The coffee shop of mobile phone addicts was the new factory of unpaid labor. And nothing is enjoyable because the unconscious is suffering its own version of austerity. Capitalism cannot allow real culture. Eventually it must substitute the artificial version as it substitutes real tension with artificial suspense in its endless nearly identical product. Art and culture are the radical communists of the unconscious economy.
    Franz Xavier Messerschmidt’s busts, fifty of which survive, were made during the last decade of his life. He had retreated from the Hapsburg Empire to a remote provincial outpost (Pressburg, now Bratislava) and began his obsessive focus on extreme emotional states. Most of the busts were likenesses of himself modeled off a mirror he sat before. What is unnerving is the modernity of these busts. Messerschmidt turned his back on the Empire and got on with it (another Agnes Martin expression). No doubt Zoloft might have helped Messerschmidt and kept him from creating. He might have continued in Vienna taking small commissions for busts of the Royal family. Messerschmidt is close in spirit to Goya and Bosch and even Donatello. But in an odd way the real precursor to Messerschmidt is fellow countryman Tilman Riemenschneider, a carver of wood. Riemenschneider worked at small projects, mostly around Wurzburg, and was a contemporary of Michelangelo and Durer. What sets him apart from other northern Gothic artists of the 15th century is the inwardness and sense of grief in his figures. This was something very different, really, from Durer, or any of the southern artists in Europe; and Riemenschneider can also be seen as one who had turned his back on the court. He favored, almost exclusively, limewood and rejected the idea of painting or adding polychromy. During his own time his work was described as *’altfrankisch’*, meaning old fashioned and Franconian. Riemenschneider was imprisoned after The German Peasant’s War, a revolt associated with the early Germanic capitalism and the birth of bourgeois society.

    http://john-steppling.com/2016/07/dr...alism-and-fun/

    A lot in this one. Talking about middle class politeness reminds me of much of Chlamor's postings a few years back.
    Last edited by blindpig; 07-05-2016 at 03:06 PM.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  7. #47
    A quote here from "The Morbid Voice:

    Now as a footnote of sorts, Jacob Levitch (whose book is coming out this year on Monthly Review Press, I believe, and which I recommend ahead of time since I know Levitch and there is no better analyst of this stuff) has written extensively on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their activities in India and Africa. And this is the linkage I am speaking about in terms of coercive ideological consensus. Overpopulation is a hot topic just now, and it is almost always a stealth ruling class agenda masquerading as Green concern. And what is most disturbing in a sense is that I know several University professors (admittedly at discount Universities) who teach this ideology. And they do it as part of a construction of the house of identity. Let me quote Levitch at some length here…

    “In a 2012 Newsweek profile, Melinda Gates announced her intention to get “family planning” back on the global agenda and made the dubious claim that African women were literally clamoring for Depo-Provera as a way of hiding contraceptive use from “unsupportive husbands.”89 Boasting that a decision “likely to change lives all over the world” had been hers alone, she announced that the Foundation would invest $4 billion in an effort to supply injectable contraceptives to 120 million women – presumably women of color – by 2020. It was a program so ambitious that some critics warned of a return to the era of eugenics and coercive sterilization.90

    Bill Gates, at one time an avowed Malthusian “at least in the developing countries”91 is now careful to repudiate Malthus in public. Yet it is striking that Foundation publicity justifies not only contraception, but every major initiative in the language of population control, from vaccination (“When children survive in greater numbers, parents decide to have smaller families”92) to primary education (“[G]irls who complete seven years of schooling will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than girls who do not complete primary school.”)93

    In a 2010 public lecture, Bill Gates attributed global warming to “overpopulation” and touted zero population growth as a solution achievable “[i]f we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, and reproductive health services.” The argument is disingenuous: As Gates certainly knows, the poor people who are the targets of his campaigns are responsible for no more than a tiny percentage of the environmental damage that underlies climate change. The economist Utsa Patnaik has demonstrated that when population figures are adjusted to account for actual per capita demand on resources, e.g., fossil fuels and food, the greatest “real population pressure” emanates not from India or Africa, but from the advanced countries. The Gates Foundation is well aware of this imbalance and works not to redress it but to preserve it – by blaming poverty not on imperialism but on unrestrained sexual reproduction “in places where we don’t want it.”

    From Malthus to the present day, the myth of overpopulation has supplied reliable ideological cover for the ruling class as it appropriates ever greater shares of the people’s labor and the planet’s wealth. As argued in Aspects No. 55, “Malthus’s heirs continue to wish us to believe that people are responsible for their own misery; that there is simply not enough to go around; and to ameliorate that state of wretchedness we must not attempt to alter the ownership of social wealth and redistribute the social product, but instead focus on reducing the number of people.” In recent years BMGF’s publicity apparatus, exploiting Western alarm about “climate change,” has helped create a resurgence of the overpopulation hysteria last experienced during the 1970s in the wake of Paul Erlich’s bestseller The Population Bomb.

    Yet the sheer scale of BMGF’s investment in “family planning”” suggests that its ambitions reach beyond mere propaganda. In addition to the multibillion dollar contraception distribution program discussed previously, BMGF provides research support for the development of new high-tech, long-lasting contraceptives (e.g., an ultrasound sterilization procedure for men as well as “non-surgical female sterilization”). Meanwhile the Foundation aggressively lobbies Third World governments to spend more on birth control and supporting infrastructure. while subsidizing steep cuts in the price of subcutaneous contraceptives.

    These initiatives lie squarely within the traditions of Big Philanthropy. The Rockefeller Foundation organized the Population Council in 1953, predicting a “Malthusian crisis” in the developing world and financing extensive experiments in population control. These interventions were enthusiastically embraced by US government policymakers, who agreed that “the demographic problems of the developing countries, especially in areas of non-Western culture, make these nations more vulnerable to Communism.” Foundation research culminated in an era of “unrestrained enthusiasm for government-sponsored family planning” by the 1970s. Less discussed but amply documented is the consistent support for eugenics research by US-based foundations, dating from the 1920s, when Rockefeller helped found the German eugenics program that undergirded Nazi racial theories,102 through the 1970s, when Ford Foundation research helped prepare the intellectual ground for a brutal forced sterilization campaign in India. { } …Population control is, in another sense, one of the instruments of social control. It extends ruling-class jurisdiction more directly to the personal sphere, aiming at “full-spectrum dominance” of the developing world. Like laws regulating marriage and sexual behavior, such interventions in the reproduction of labor power are not essential to capitalists but remain desirable as a means of exercising ruling class hegemony over every aspect of the lives of the working people. Whereas the ideology of population control is intended to turn attention away from the existing distribution of wealth and income that causes widespread want, population control as such directly targets the bodies and dignity of poor people, conditioning them to believe that life’s most intimate decisions are outside of their competence and control.

    The relationship between bourgeois ideology and imperialist practice is dynamic and mutually supportive. As David Harvey has observed: “Whenever a theory of overpopulation seizes hold in a society dominated by an elite, then the non-elite invariably experience some form of political, economic, and social repression.” Seen in this light, BMGF’s promotion of population control is doubly pernicious because it is cloaked in the language of environmentalism, popular empowerment, and feminism. Melinda Gates may evoke “choice” in support of her family planning initiatives, but in reality it is not poor women, but a handful of the world’s wealthiest people who have presumed to choose which methods of contraception will be delivered, and to whom.”

    (full link here. http://www.rupe-india.org/57/gates.html

    http://john-steppling.com/2016/08/the-morbid-voice/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  8. #48
    Fear Level Trump
    by JOHN STEPPLING


    Email

    I remember a time when a cabbage could sell itself by being a cabbage. Nowadays it’s no good being a cabbage – unless you have an agent and pay him a commission. Nothing is free anymore to sell itself or give itself away. These days, Countess, every cabbage has its pimp.”
    ― Jean Giraudoux, The Madwoman of Chaillot

    This election seems to have traumatized the usually, and increasingly, somnambulant public in the US to the degree that a number of various mental affects are activated, and maybe even some old wounds finally surfacing again, but most of all it has generated a new level of panic among the bourgeoisie.

    There was a piece in the New York Review of Books on Trump the candidate, written by Jonathan Freedland. And it touches on the strange almost surreal resiliency of the Trump campaign. There was another odd bit of fluff at the Guardian (where fluff is becoming the norm) on Claire Danes bottled and excessive tan at the Emmy awards show, which the author attributed to, or equated with Trump and his sun lamped skin. One TWEET (quoted by the Guardian) went…“Claire Danes’ bronzer is threat level TRUMP,”.

    The NYRBs is, of course, a pretty reactionary rag these days, notwithstanding my fondness for the minor esorterica it includes (Mesopotamian art exhibits or reviews of obscure medieval history books, etc). But Freedland (arch liberal though he is) pretty cogently summed up Trump and the seething anger that drives his followers. Or the visible followers anyway. For there may be more. And if Trump, as even I have wondered, isn’t in it to win, then he could well be playing out the political version of Mel Brooks The Producers. And the possibility of polls being wildly wrong this election is, I’d say, very high. But Trump the candidate is now, at the least, part of american folklore.

    Trump’s tan is the semiotic read for success — gold, Vegas, penthouses and fake tans. Claire Danes was only looking to enhance her brand, even if unconsciously, or sub consciously.

    Now, running through all of this are questions of pedagogy.For perhaps the most glaring deficiency of contemporary life in the West is education. For this is now a generation (and maybe its more like the second or third generation) that no longer reads. I’ve had conversations both in person and on social media with students from Oxford and NYU and in all cases (for there are others) there is shocking inability to reason. Fifty years ago Debord suggested the Society of the Spectacle was creating a generalized autism. And in a sense I think this is true and that it is almost the opposite of schizophrenia. People read text as if it is code. They are stunningly blind to tone and metaphor, to irony (its only “irony”) as well as simply employing a not very expansive vocabulary. They cannot make distinctions. And this is true on the left and the right.

    This election has revealed as never before the ugly reactionary core of white american liberals. Their silence on Clinton’s crimes is shocking. And one suspects there are two explanations involved. One is that their hysteria about Trump is fueled by seeing far too much of themselves in Trump’s racism and bigotry and even style. For while they abhor his vulgarity, they also know this is the aesthetic endgame for America. And they are, or think they are, the gatekeepers of those aesthetics. The other reason is that they fear the losing of their own bourgeois privilege if Trump wins. These are white educated liberals who support gun control, and were shocked at the Brexit vote, support same sex marriage, and have exactly no idea why the lumpen proletariat in the US is so angry. Or why workers in the Eurozone are so angry. Or what it means to be poor and black in the US today. Because if they did they would fear Hillary just as much as Trump. More. No, Hillary represents their own privilege. She is the candidate of the status quo. And in a weird kind of meta ironic metaphor, her illness and perhaps mental incapacity, is the perfect expression of the morbidity of the Democratic Party today. The DNC is an unbalanced aging wreck on the verge of collapse.

    So, the white liberal bourgeoisie is voting Clinton. And the pretext is to save us all from Trump and fascism. But this is the strategy for the Democratic Party every four years. There is always a bogeyman. And there is always the demand to not *waste* votes on third party candidates (the metaphors and similes of popular culture always reflect finance capitalism). And the result is that the Democratic Party continues to veer to the right. Today Nixon would seem a liberal Republican if not a moderate Democrat. The lesser evilism strategy is simply capitulation. And even those who encourage voting for Jill Stein tend to see in Trump something genuinely fascistic. And I am afraid I don’t. Firstly, it is impossible to know exactly what Trump believes because he contradicts himself weekly and sometimes daily. One of the reasons so many neo-con Republicans are voting for Hillary is that they fear what Trump would do to the economy. None of them care about U.S. foreign policy, certainly, or an intensified domestic authoritarianism. And 99% of Americans don’t care either. Ask the average American about the Saudi war on Yemen and you will get blank stares. But in fact the U.S is deeply complicit with the crimes of the Saudi military in their attack on Yemen. There are U.S. military advisors who meet daily in Riyadh with Saudi military personnel to coordinate the attacks and bombing on Yemen. Attacks that targeted schools and hospitals. It is now estimated that over 320 thousand children are severely malnourished in Yemen. The U.S. sold 90 billion in weaponry and aircraft to the Saudi’s over the last five years. The UK has done the same. There are U.S. advisors in Yemen. But nobody cares. Secretary of State Clinton has all but put a hit out on Bashir Assad. And has openly suggested attacking Iran, and supports the most extreme policies of Israeli aggression. She has a long and close relationship with the Saudi monarchy. But nobody cares. This is all far away. But Trump, the Donald, is right here. On TV, with this ridiculous hair and outrageous pronouncements. And the liberals, and many on the left too, and many I admire, are warning of the dire consequences environmentally if Trump is president. Except, Clinton is a cheerleader for TPP and TTIP (and the back up TISA aggreement) and most of all is the most hawkish candidate for president in history — and the U.S. military is one of the worlds great polluters. Ask the people of Iraq, or the former Yugoslavia, or Libya. Ask how depleted uranium has effected their lives. She also supports fracking. So neither major candidate is exactly green.

    And while in the purest sense, all reform is bound to fail in the end, the landscape has changed over the last forty years. When millions went out into the streets in that period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, there followed a sense of numb resignation when the U.S. invaded anyway. The state, this pretend democracy, had utterly ignored them. Many blamed Bush. And sure, the neo-con cabal was awful and fascistic, but then Obama was elected and nothing at all changed. In many ways most everything got worse. Deportations increased, the military expanded and even more military bases were built on foreign soil. Draconian trade agreements were written in secret and drone assassination was normalized. And now, after 8 years of Obama, the Clinton machine has returned. Like the return of repressed material, like a foul nightmare, the unbalanced (literal and figurative I guess) war monger that is Hillary — after a disastrous stint as secretary of state — is the democratic nominee. Like a dog returning to its vomit. After stealing California from the fraudulent loud mouthed Bernie Sanders, the only thing standing in her way is Donald Trump. And Trump is the most contradictory and strange phenomenon in the history of US electoral politics. All of which is to say, there is much in this current climate to applaud about concrete reform. Real people are provided with, at least, some temporary relief. And those at work with prison reform and anti penalty work, as well as BLM activists are the only positive coming out of the current U.S.

    Trump is not Hitler. He is Berlusconi. And aides like Roger Stone are right when they point and say ‘the factories are closed’. But most liberals don’t work in factories and many sort of just don’t work. What do liberals fear so much from Trump that they seem not to fear from Hillary? A wall? There is already a wall. Deportations? They are already at record levels. What exactly? Reproductive rights and the Supreme Court? Ok, I suppose women’s rights is valid point…sort of. I mean the women murdered and the families destroyed in Honduras after Hillary’s coup might argue this. Same in Haiti, and Libya or Gaza. But here is where the liberals start a campaign of shaming those who want to vote for Jill Stein. Firstly, the binary vision of politics is deeply embedded in the liberal class today. More so than on the right even. A vote for Stein/Baraka is seen as a *wasted* vote. Why? Because there can only be two candidates. Ever. Period. Two parties ensures there is only one party. As Mumia Abu-Jamal said, if the cost of killing off neo liberalism is a Trump victory, so be it. And Margaret Kimberley said, she will vote Stein and hope for the death of the Democratic Party. And I am with that sentiment. But for the white bourgeoisie, this election is about much more than a fear of the guy with the bottled tan. It is about their sense of impending loss of privilege. And that privilege is baked into the erosion of education, the growing police state (which does not patrol affluent white neighborhoods) and with an expanding permanent war state globally. And most of all because WINNING is what matters. Period. Full stop.

    Hillary Clinton has called Putin a new Hitler. This is hardly the language of mature statesmanship. Does none of this sink into the brain of the white liberal? I think it is simply a matter of not caring. White educated liberal America doesn’t give a fuck about the rest of the world. They care about their own position in a failing America. Now, it is scary on one level to watch a Trump rally. But not for the casual racism, because that is everywhere everyday in the USA. No, it is the sense of suppressed rage in the lumpen working class finally coming out. And how long it must have been festering. And this brings me back to my first point, really. The sense of things surfacing — and in a way its like Vietnam. The trauma cut across all classes. Everyone was hurt. This election is for a variety of reasons reactivating old traumas, guilt, shame. Pain.

    The hostility of this culture. The angry snarky bitchy self involved narcissistic hostility. The only places I find deep comradeship is in the social justice movement. In BLM and in prison rights. Not on the left, not in left parties or left intelligentsia . Mostly I find a tacit policing of thought on the left.

    The largest prison strike in US history is going on but there is a media blackout. I don’t hear much about it in left circles. There are new death penalty legislation being over turned. But I hear little about it in any media, left or right. These things have to be taught. Milosevic was exonerated (even if it was to justify a bogus conviction of Karadzic..also innocent) and the media ignored it. What was once the trial of the century, the trial of the *Butcher of the Balkans* is now simply ignored. Claire Danes’ tan mattered more.

    And that is the Trump phenomenon. He is a vision of success to the masses in 2016. He is the kitsch King of Success. Never mind his deep ignorance (and his sons….oh geez….) or his crude bullying. He IS success for the New America. Flashy, vulgar, and loud. That makes him rather perfect in a sense. I don’t care. I fear Hillary much more is all I know. A vegas President? Who cares. Kennebunkport becomes Atlantic City. The logic of finance capital results ….after everything…in Donald Trump.

    Andrew Levine wrote recently:

    “If the debates this year were run, say, according to the old League of Women Voters rules, Stein and Johnson would be in. Even if they were, Clinton would still win the election – she has too much media support and too many political machines working for her to lose, no matter how awful a candidate she is. But the quality of political discourse would improve a hundred-fold or more. The benefits of that, especially after the election is over, would be incalculable.”

    Pedagogy. Levine goes on to make on the best observations of this entire election season. And that is, when speaking of Trump … “What comes out of his mouth are not policy prescriptions at all; they are emotive utterances. He is not voicing ideas; he is conveying an attitude.”

    And that is the heart of this. The King of Success, gold tan, gold hair and gold checkbook. And finally,ignorance. He has already picked the vile James Wolsey for his team. So the same guys will run things whoever wins. Which is why it makes sense to vote commitment and vote Stein/Baraka. At least, at the very least, you can feel less complicit in the final solution looming for Gaza or the nuclear confrontation with Russia, or the destruction of Syria when Clinton wins, or the total destruction of Yemen. For Hillary will make regime change the national pastime. And I suspect that deep down most Trump supporters know their man is an ignoramus. But they are angry. And nobody, on a deep instinctual level, could get behind Ted Cruz. His hips were wider than this shoulders. There was something deeply unwholesome about Cruz. And actually the same might be said of Rubio. Or even Sanders. This was a charisma vacuum. And in walked the mack daddy of Atlantic City. Mr Trump Towers. The man with the tan.

    The fact that Trump is so deeply ignorant and yet so popular is sort of unsurprising. I mean Bush was ignorant. Reagan was ignorant. Is Trump dumber about world affairs than Reagan? Its too close to call. The problem with most discussions of Trump vs. Clinton is that such discussions are reductive. Pick any issue you want. Gun control? The U.S. is the worlds leading exporter of weaponry. The defense industry is the biggest in the world. Can one really separate that fact from guns on the streets of America? Especially in the hands of the police. Many police are returning Iraqi or Afghan vets. But it is more than that, it is the ideological vision of conquest and class segregation. The U.S. authority structure treats the poor, especially the black poor, as colonial subjects. Poor neighborhoods are viewed much as the U.S. military views towns in Iraq. There is a need for pacification. One cannot be the worlds leading maker of guns and bombs and bullets and expect your own streets not to be infected with the same violence you impose on the poor of other countries you invade. Take the environment. No major candidate save Jill Stein has said anything remotely coherent about the environment. You cannot support destructive trade deals and militarism, not to mention the defense industry, and then say you want to protect the environment.

    So, no, Trump is disturbing in his off handed misogyny and bigotry. He is a mean spirited creep. But at the same time he said he wants to talk to Putin, not attack him. So there is that. Still it is likely the exact same neo-con war architects would inhabit his administration as would Hillary’s. But none of this is, finally, relevant. Because Presidents are not Czars. They do not rule by decree or fiat. It is a system of rank exploitation and naked corporate fraud, of a racist judicial system and a growing gulag with the most prisoners in the world. How much worse, even domestically where presidents traditionally have little real power, will life be under a Trump? Will he amp up the surveillance state? Perhaps. Although its acutely bad already. Can he unleash the National Guard on protesters? I sort of doubt it. And who will either of these two candidates pick for their cabinet? Trump tapped the vile James Woolsey, already. Clinton is eyeing Michelle Flournoy and already picked Ken Salazar. These are horrible choices. Neo fascistic choices. Does that sound good? And the recent U.S. attack on the Syrian army at Deir ez-Zor suggests (as Diana Johnstone observed) that Hillary, the presumptive winner anyway, is already exercising decision making power. Why validate more of this same Imperialist blood letting globally, and more of the police state violence domestically. Both major candidates reach peak nightmare status.This is why it matters to vote with a conscience. Vote for Stein and Baraka. Its not about winning. Because electorally you all have already lost. It is about a vision for a future without these ghouls

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/...r-level-trump/

    Pretty good piece, with a few problems. I take his point on voting for the Greens as protest and pallative, given the current situation that might have weight, however repulsive. Still I could do so as I'll be there anyway to vote against the sheriff and if none of the small socialist(?) parties are on the SC ballot, what the hell.

    The other issue is Steppling's tendency to confuse the lumpen with the working class. I have long thought that the line between those groups to be blurring, largely based on personal experience. The gray/black markets are huge, the number of folks working under the table significant as is the number of people supplementing their income with illegal activities but not 'career criminals'. Hell, my old man was a 'basket man' for a numbers guy and bought excess 'breakage' from beer truck drivers for re-sale. Of course I see a lot of this in my life today but my sampling could be off. In this case I'll cut Steppling some slack.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  9. #49
    The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
    by JOHN STEPPLING

    “The view that Syria is under attack because it isn’t a western puppet state, and that Washington wants Assad to step down to make it one, cannot be so easily dismissed. There’s plenty of evidence that states that seek to remain independent of US prescriptions on how they ought to organize their economies and foreign policies are uniquely targeted for sub-critical warfare (sanctions, sabotage, demonization, diplomatic isolation), or—where a military victory can be secured with impunity for the aggressor—by outright military intervention.

    The Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, who NATO forces worked tirelessly to depose, told Canadian lawyer Christopher Black that Washington sought his ouster for two reasons: Because he was a communist. And because he told the Americans to go fuck themselves. Which is to say, Milosevic refused to turn Yugoslavia into a western puppet state.

    Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi was overthrown because he insisted that foreign investment in Libya work to the benefit of Libyans, an attitude that threatened to cut into the profit margins of Western investors. The US State Department complained that Gaddafi was practicing “resource nationalism,” while oil companies reacted bitterly to the tough bargains he was driving. This was hardly behavior befitting a western puppet state (which Libya wasn’t.) For telling Western oil companies that they could go fuck themselves if they thought they were going to get rich on Libyan oil while leaving Libya with nothing, Gaddafi, in the view of the Western foreign policy elite, had to go.

    Stephen Gowans, 2014

    The last Presidential non-debate is mercifully over and the Clinton regime can rest comfortable it is about to assume power. Questions remain as to just how committed (if at all) the Donald was to winning this election, but whatever the case, whatever mechanisms were employed to put him at the top of the Republican ticket, the one clear thing is that the Republican Party is dead. Or maybe it has simply merged with the Democratic Party. The Republicans could offer no alternative save the fanatic Christian Ted Cruz or the squirrelly Paul Ryan as an alternative. Oh, and poor Marco Rubio. Remember that the previous election featured a wealthy Mormon and the laughable figure of John McCain.

    A leaked DNC memo in fact listed Cruz and Trump as potential *pied piper* candidates who would help erode credibility in the Republican Party (not hard, that) and lead the children (to keep to the metaphor) back to the Democratic Party, regardless how awful its own candidate. In any event, Trump can return to his new media empire (with new money and new partners such as Steve Bannon). Meanwhile the spectacle of U.S. electoral discourse has been reduced to a barrage of anti-Putin propaganda and a cartoon level public dialogue that treats the election as if it is a schoolyard fight where the tough girl gets to kick ass over the rapey rich kid. Richy Rich is punked by war hungry Imperialist and a lifetime criminal who happens to be a woman. This was the week that saw an endless series of memes featuring Hillary as a triumphant feminist heroine. The *competency* theme seemed to have picked up momentum, no doubt due to Trump’s history of archaic sexist treatment of women in his employ and even not in his employ. You’d almost think he WANTED this stuff to get out there. To get out there right at this moment, right before the election.

    But then I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being handled. That every wikileak and email and revelation of groping was being calculated and served up to direct attention away from the fact that the U.S. military is now actively involved in the Saudi war crimes in Yemen and that Clinton (who seems more in control of foreign policy than Obama at the moment) is ratcheting up the provocations with Russia and Putin. And the arena for this new cold-soon-to-be-hot war is Syria.

    And that brings me back to the cultural perception of Syria and the Arab (and Persian) world in general. Syria was both a product of colonialism in the sense its borders were drawn up by the French and English and the shadows that cast, but from which came (again) an anti Imperialism and Arab nationalism that featured a hybrid socialism and a fierce independence. The U.S. has never tolerated those leaders of small and even not so small countries that refused to “liberalize the economy”. That is short hand for becoming a client state. Chavez embraced Assad because he recognized an ally in the fight against global capital. The road to socialism is not easy. Ask the Sandinistas.

    As Roger Harris wrote in July of this year…

    “But even more important for Venezuela, as for any other capitalist country, is that the commanding heights of the national economy are controlled by an owning class whose antipathy of social change is immense. This includes not only the manufacturing, service, and major agricultural sectors, but a privately owned and rabidly hostile mass media.
In addition, the Venezuelan economy is integrated with the world economy, which is dominated by institutions with a neo-liberal agenda of all power to capital. And over-arching all of this is the US government organizing, funding, and directing the domestic and international opposition to the Chávista project.”

    Assad rejected the Qatar oil pipeline deal in 2009. From there on out there was never going to be but one conclusion to the story. And Hillary Clinton has openly said this. Assad must go. And yet the U.S. public seems far more interested and worried about Trump and his theoretical broship with Putin. Or the supposed hacking of the DNC by Putin, except any cyber expert will tell you its impossible to determine attribution. But people believe it anyway. Qaddafi cancelled that billion dollar deal with Bechtel and found himself tortured and murdered courtesy of Madame Clinton. Assad faces a similar fate.

    Chavez is dead, in circumstances not so different from Milosevic. On the other hand look at U.S. allies, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where gay men are beheaded and women still can’t drive. Or Israel, where a many decades long ethnic cleansing is being carried out while proudly remaining a racist apartheid state. This is just fine. The narrative is always the same for the U.S. If you want to stay in power remember to create a climate friendly to western Capital, and buy U.S. weapons, privatize your resources in some fashion that allows western companies to make a huge profit, and then, hell, do what you want. And this is where I am reminded of what Cornell West said not so long ago…“…the crimes of the occupier always outstrip the crimes of the occupied”. I may be paraphrasing a bit. The point is that leaders like Assad face enormous pressure to obey. Look what happens when you don’t. Milosevic, Qadaffi, Lumumba, Arbenz, Allende, or Brazil in 64 where the U.S. feared (in the words of ambassador Lincoln Gordon) that Goulart would make the country ‘the China of South America’. Or Iran in 53, or Guatamala, or Greece or Haiti. The list is very long. Or Vietnam. Remember Vietnam? It seems many Americans no longer do remember Vietnam. Ngo Dinh Diem is another disobedient foreign leader. Assassinated in 1963 with the CIA fingerprints all over the hit.

    “Some very complicated discussions are not being had about the nature of agents of change. I am suspecting that, at least for many of those who fancy themselves as leftists in North America and Europe, they prefer to wait for a messiah: a pure, saintly figure, beyond all reproach, without the complicated past of a real human being who lived a real human life. The architect of utopia must be perfect. This is a new puritanism.”

    Maximillian Forte

    Many on the left (and god knows many on the right) like to refer to Assad’s government as a *regime*. This is an orientalist code for expendable. Chavez was elected three times but was labeled a dictator. Milosevic was the ‘Butcher of the Balkans’. Qadaffi went in and out of favour with the U.S. (and France) a number of times, but his economic reforms were just a step too far. And he served as the perfect object lesson in disobedience. If you don’t do as you are told, you will be driven into a hole and beaten to death. Saddam could gas his own people and get trade breaks, as long as he flew U.S. made helicopters to do it. Eventually it was expedient to lose him, too. Clinton has now famously boasted of the Qadaffi hit. We came, we saw, he died. Those words and her cackle afterwords will linger in the western imagination for decades. And the handling of these narratives always employs a certain very specific Orwellian vocabulary. And there are always lurid tales of chemical weapons or rape and there are always poor dark skinned suffering children used to gain sympathy. Remember the babies torn from incubators in Kuwait story? Or the rape camps in football stadiums in the former Yugoslavia. And now the western funded fraud that is the White Helmets and the ash covered boy in the orange seat. Fictions, created by Madison Ave firms; but you know what was real? Abu Ghraib. A story that has mostly faded from media memory. At what point does the U.S. public decide to remember any of this? To remember that the media lies. I guess never. And even on the left there is often a curious adherence to U.S. state department storylines. Whatever Assad has done, remember the situation. Assad is called out because Syria had torture sites (allegedly) in service to the U.S. You know who else did? Poland. But Poland is not a regime. As for repression and the litany of western accusations against Syria, I would only say remember the position of those countries looking up at the Imperialist boot heel of the U.S., AFRICOM and NATO.

    A side bar note here on Qadaffi, who Reagan once called ‘the mad dog of the middle east’ and who made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him. Muammar Qadaffi in hindsight looms as a figure of some importance. A defiant Arab leader, a Bedouin pan Africanist and pan Arabist and Nasserite who planned to create the Gold Dinar, a single currency for the entire African continent, and a highly pragmatic leader who survived four decades.

    As SMubashir Noor writes (in the Daily Times of Pakistan)…

    “He subsequently helped the US gather intelligence on Islamic radicals, gave up his nuclear programme and paid reparations to the victims of Lockerbie. The White House, (Pete) Hoekstra rues, “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory” when it decided to dislodge Gaddafi because he was “doing everything we had asked him to do and had been doing it for eight or nine years”.”

    But for Obama, Clinton, and the Pentagon..and the defense industry in the U.S., the symbolic and literal sodomizing and murder of Qadaffi was more important. Lest other uppity Arab leaders get any ideas. Send a message.

    And then we have ISIS. or Al Nusra or whateverthefuckever they are called, or whatever the sub phylum of the sub set wants to be called. The Islamic radicals sure seem to spend a lot of time rebranding. But then they are very good at videos. They are media savy, as they say. And shit, someone tell me where that caravan of brand new Toyota trucks came from? And someone might ask Toyota come to think of it. I know I can’t afford a new Toyota pick up. The so called moderate rebels seem to turn up at inopportune times (like at the beheading party….where a young Palestinian boy was murdered, on the back of a pick up come to think of it). Where does the funding come from? One certainty is Saudi Arabia — chief donor to the Clinton Foundation. An ally of the U.S. And yet, remarkably enough not a single question in these debates addressed this fact. The U.S. is theoretically fighting *terrorists* who are holding U.S. manufactured weapons. ISIS supply lines have been photographed back in 2012 even, travelling through Turkey to Syria, with hundreds of trucks per day loaded with supplies. But clearly ammunition and grenade launchers as well as the truck of choice, Toyota, are gifts from the CIA and its proxies. But none of this sticks. Here in Norway, Loretta Napoleoni appeared on a nighttime news show to discuss terrorist funding and over the course of 20 minutes managed not to mention the possibility that CIA or Mossad might have, you know, played a part in this. No, we are to believe its all kidnapping and human trafficking. Such are the fairy tales of mainstream media.

    The U.S. public would rather spend time on hash tags about Kick Ass Bad Ass Nasty Ass Hillary humbling the Donald (as the awful Ezra Klein put it in the paper of record) that deal with questions of who creates the simplified narratives they read. The White Helmets are the Syrian intervention version of incubator babies or Fikret Alic. Hill & Knowlton, Rudder-Finn, PURPOSE. But this should be no surprise, really. Look at the sentimentalism of Hollywood TV and film these days. And look at the stenographers for Empire, like Klein, or Kristoff or Brooks, but also look at the writers of VICE and SALON and then look at what passes for entertainment criticism. And I say that because those who write for pop culture have, perhaps, surprising amounts of influence. Not in what people watch or don’t, but in the *way* things are presented. The framing, as media scholars like to put it. The tacit assumptions, the omissions, the fawning tone or bitchy snarky attack. All of it is written at about a 4th or 5th grade level. The gatekeepers of corporate driven populism look to see if the right message is sent. Be cheerful, and funny if possible, and elevate the military to the status of heroic at all times, and the police, and manufacture domestic threats in the person of inner city black youth, or Chicano, and if possible Russian. Do not tarnish the integrity of the White House.

    Michelle Obama delivers an unctuous speech about Trump’s sexism. And the liberal press and public fall over themselves in adulation. I twice heard the word *goddess* in social media. The white liberal loves Michelle. She is well behaved and perfectly nice. The way black people SHOULD be. Obama over his eight years has now been revealed as a malleable and opportunistic reader of the winds of political power. He adjusts his position in a heartbeat. In a hundred years, if anyone is still around, history will look back at Obama as the most gifted consigliere for corporate power in U.S. political history. The 21st century version of Warren Harding. Go along to get along. The only difference is the degree of calculation. Obama is a slippery back room lawyer. The reliable black man the establishment can count on. After all, Obama has actually weakened and outright rejected more environmental regulations than Bush. He has escalated all military interventions and established the precedent for extra legal assassination. And Hillary promises to be even worse. She actually does promise this. The support of fracking is one part (she lobbied globally for fracking while secretary of state), but her overall environmental policy is completely in line with the corporate interests that fund her. She often sounds like Ronald Reagan in fact.

    The current War on Terror is so generalized, perceptually, that it seems to shape-change at a moment’s notice. Is anyone surprised the public can’t track the threat beyond the signifiers (beard, black flag, Toyotas, AK47s and videos). And this is what Hollywood reinforces. Count the network and cable shows that feature Islamic terror threats. And the advanced high tech espionage that helps keep America safe. This theme is repeated so consistently that it has reached a level of religion. A ritualized incantatory mantra that is repeated so often that it serves in the minds of much of the public as a sort of proto reality.

    And yet. And yet as Carol Dansereau wrote:

    “Far more people now identify as Independent than Democrat or Republican. Sixty-nine percent of 18 to 29 year olds and 50 percent of 30 to 49 year olds in the U.S. would now vote for a socialist. We are actually very close to being able to build the movement for economic and political democracy that we need, including but not limited to a political party of the 99%. That’s why we’re being subjected to the charade that characterizes this election season. Only through intense manipulation, and only by pitting an outrageous bigot against a right wing militaristic corporate hack like Hillary Clinton, can those who have been pushing humanity towards the brink of disaster maintain control.” (The Greanville Post, Oct 20th 2016)

    And this is again a part of the mainstream media’s effect on consciousness. Those rejecting this electoral circus are invisible in the media. The majority of people, and certainly younger people, have no trust in the system. And while that visible educated {sic} 30% Chomsky once identified as the demographic target of Madison Avenue are growing in hysteria, there are many, very many, who sense they are being consistently lied to and cheated and exploited. The white liberal is now as big an impediment to social change as the far right followers of Trump. Bigger, in fact. One of the reasons so many people ignored the sexism and xenophobia of Trump was that they just wanted to express their anger. And their trauma. Vast numbers of Americans have almost no savings and live month to month. Many live week to week. But they are invisible in media. Meanwhile the attacks on Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka continue as if on auto-pilot. The corporate media found a framing that worked and they doubled down. Stein is a kook, an anti science fringe whacko. That none of this is true seems utterly beside the point.

    Trump never wanted to win. And while, yes, many of his core base are bigoted misogynistic white men, there are others who simply wanted to voice their rage. The U.S. now affords a highly militarized police apparatus almost complete immunity. Poor black neighborhoods are occupied and terrorized. But Hollywood never tells that story. I mean never. There are a few bad apple stories, but nothing addressing a systemic racism of domestic police departments or the growing gulag that is mass incarceration. There are a few documentaries made on such subjects, but they are rarely widely viewed and rarely have a political critique. Nobody in corporate media says Capitalism sucks the life from the working poor, Capitalism breeds inequality and poverty. Capitalism is intensifying the polarization of income.

    I mean, this TV season featured a fairy tale story of Queen Victoria on the ITV in the U.K. (produced by Rebecca Eaton, who was awarded an Officer, Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth). You know Victoria, the Empress of India, the sovereign of colonial plunder and suffering. A monarch who over sixty some years on the throne controlled over thirty percent of the worlds industry and something like fourteen million square miles of territory. But you see none of that. This is a, well, a *love* story. Why does anyone want to see this white washed fairy tale? I see no U.S. or U.K. projects about the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the revolt on Hispaniola? Curious that. The selling of narratives on the aristocracy is a long standing tradition in English speaking entertainments. And we are not talking Shakespeare, here. These are the normalizing narratives of inequality. Like Downtown Abbey, a show about how some are born to be servants and are glad of it. A quick glance at this seasons shows and films from Hollywood feature mostly police and military themes, or soap operas of the rich and stupid. The Donald Trumps of the world. And the Hillary Clintons. Or, fairy tales about princes and queens. Why is this so acceptable to so many?

    And while I suspect more and more are, in fact, rejecting this obviously rotted system, the single biggest obstacle is the bourgeois white liberal. These are the Clinton bots, the ersatz feminists who seem to forget woman have no rights in the Kingdom paying the most into Hillary’s bank account. And these are people with scant knowledge of foreign policy. Now, it is also possible that not too far down the line the Kingdom itself might prove expendable. But not just yet. The liberals, both men and women are entranced with Barry and Michelle. Still. And it seems there is a complex set of repressed guilt and resentments involved, and barely repressed validation of their own liberalness and post race-ness. But I’m not at all sure. Justice Ginsburg, an Obama appointee, derides Colin Kaepernick’s protest as stupid and disrespectful. She later walked that back a bit, which only made it worse. Justices are presumably not supposed to be careless with their public remarks. And this institution, the supreme court, is a reason often given for the essential importance of voting Democratic.

    Do those applauding the defeat of Trump realize at all the coming conflagrations? Do they stop to reflect on the seven hundred military bases around the world housing US soldiers and weapons? Seems not. Or that Russia has only ten, and all of them in former Soviet countries. Do they know or care at all what Clinton means to the people of the Arab world, Central America and Asia? Seems unlikely. Perhaps they so actively adore Michelle and Barry as a psychological defense mechanism to keep guilt at bay for the millions of dead Africans and Arabs murdered by the U.S. state. And their guilt for not waking to the two million people in prison in the U.S. Most of them people of color. All of them poor. But let the coronation begin. It is, in fact, a tad like Victoria. An unpleasant widely disliked and distrusted monarch married to a womanizing louche political operator of sorts (well, ok, Bill WAS president). Remember too, that Victoria’s marriage to Albert was brokered by King Leopold of Belgium. Remember him? The man who murdered a third of the Congo and stole its resources, mutilated and tortured tens of thousands of Congolese slaves. How romantic this story. The media is the most powerful entity in the political landscape of the 21st century. And it remains a display of white privilege and jingoistic authoritarianism. The world view is a reduced story of good guys (us) and bad guys (Islam, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran in particular, and black and brown youth). One would not know anything of community organizing and grass roots resistance because the media erases it. It is simply omitted from discussions. The Clinton dynasty is a remarkable feat in many ways. That so unlikable and dishonest a figure as Hillary Clinton can reach the Presidency speaks volumes about the state of American culture. But look at Europe, from the odious ruling party of the U.K. (with their own version of Trump in Boris Johnson), a former neo Nazi party is in power in Sweden, and fascist parties are part of government in Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, and France. The European/American axis of evil, as it were. Tell Americans that the sole remaining Imperialist nation is the U.S. and you get vociferous argument. But then ask most Americans to define *imperialism* and you will find mostly blank stares.

    But as I say, I don’t trust anything anymore. I’m not in Syria, and I don’t know, really, what is happening. I can guess, of course. I can make educated guesses based on history. I have no idea the conversations in private between …well, anyone in the political realm. I don’t trust what I hear about Putin but I also don’t trust what I haven’t heard. I don’t even trust what I hear about the environment. So awash in alarmist narratives that one would think the world is ending as I type this. Or that WW3 is coming. That is possible, given the sociopathy of the American ruling class. But I don’t know. Do I trust Assange? Snowden? Not really.I don’t know what was said at Bilderburg this year. I wasn’t invited. This is maybe the real truth of the contemporary world. Or two truths that are coupled. For real revolutionary change the media telecom giants must be taken over or just done away with. And the second truth; we are being handled. For what and by whom is less clear. But again, we can guess. We can make educated guesses if we want. Or, we can sleepwalk into the coming nightmare. For that is something I feel relatively certain about. The coming nightmare.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/24/87796/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  10. #50
    The Long Shadows
    by JOHN STEPPLING

    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

    — John 14:27

    The protests against Trump feel oddly class mediated. Because, lets remember, that for the last eight years a liberal {sic} democrat has been in the white house. And for those eight years there have been something like triple the number of black men dying (and women, and even children) by police deadly force. Statistics are stunningly difficult to get, actually (which even FBI director James Comey admitted). And for the last four decades inequality has steadily grown overall. But the real story of domestic policing is that of income inequality. That inequality, between whites and blacks in the U.S., is greater than in apartheid South Africa. The poor neighborhoods of the U.S., both black and Latino and Native American, have been punished by loss of welfare, deterioration of infrastructure, and a history of racism. And it is useful to look at that in terms of an American culture of violence and oppression.

    Loic Wacquant (despite a recent bit of victim blaming in a letter to the regrettable Molly Crabapple) wrote of the four phases of black oppression in the history of the U.S.

    “1. Slavery (1619–1865). Slavery is a highly malleable and versatile institution that can be harnessed to a variety of purposes, but in the Americas property-in-person was geared primarily to the provision and control of labour. Its introduction in the Chesapeake, Middle Atlantic and Low Country regions of the United States in the 17th century served to recruit and regulate the unfree workforce forcibly imported from Africa and the West Indies to cater to their tobacco, rice and mixed-farming economy.{ }
2. Jim Crow (South, 1865–1965). Racial division was a consequence, not a precondition, of US slavery, but once it was instituted it became detached from its initial function and acquired a social potency of its own. Emancipation thus created a double dilemma for Southern white society: how to secure anew the labour of former slaves, without whom the region’s economy would collapse, and how to sustain the cardinal status distinction between whites and ‘persons of colour,’ i.e, the social and symbolic distance needed to prevent the odium of ‘amalgamation’ with a group considered inferior, rootless and vile. { }
3. Ghetto (North, 1915–68). The sheer brutality of caste oppression in the South, the decline of cotton agriculture due to floods and the boll weevil, and the pressing shortage of labour in Northern factories caused by the outbreak of World War 1 created the impetus for African-Americans to emigrate en masse to the booming industrial centers of the Midwest and Northeast (over 1.5 million left in 1910–30, followed by another 3 million in 1940–60). But as migrants from Mississippi to the Carolinas flocked to the Northern metropolis, what they discovered there was not the ‘promised land’ of equality and full citizenship but another system of racial enclosure, the ghetto, which, though it was less rigid and fearsome than the one they had fled, was no less encompassing and constricting.”

    The fourth is what Wacquant calls the ‘hyper ghetto/carceral system’ of today. Mass incarceration was oddly invisible as a topic during the recent presidential campaigns. And it is important to remember that Bill Clinton signed that crime bill that helped spike mass incarceration, as well as once (1998) bragged in his radio address of cracking down on inmate fraud in receiving social security checks. Clinton family race baiting is breathtaking when one looks back on it, but then today’s white liberal rarely looks back at anything. The systematic creation of zones of exclusion, or hyper marginalization, has followed on the neo liberal policies of Democrats and Republicans alike. The withdrawl of services to these zones of marginalization began with Reagan and has not stopped.

    Wacquant defined ghetto as … “it is a relation of ethnoracial control and closure built out of four elements: (i) stigma; (ii) constraint; (iii) territorial confinement; and (iv) institutional encasement. “

    In other words it is a sort of racist de facto prison. And the ‘projects’, the low income housing in big cities have increasingly come to resemble carceral camps or detention sites.

    “…In this society, to a degree virtually unmatched in any other, those bearing the brunt of order enforcement belong in vastly disproportionate numbers to historically marginalized racial groups. Crime and punishment in America has a color.”

    Glenn Loury

    So what is it exactly that everyone fears so much about Trump? Well, the obvious answer is the empowerment of his base. How that plays out remains an open question but I’m not personally worried that it can actually get much worse than it already is. The economic violence against the working class in the U.S. is being in a sense obscured by the Trump hysteria, as if he invented discrimination and exclusion. Trump only reflects a system that has lurched ever further to the right since the early 1970s. And that is not to suggest that it was ever some workers paradise. The post industrial worker, though, has been subjected to a steady process of a downsized social safety net while prison and police funding has steadily grown. And since Bush, through Obama, the power of police has only increased. In effect for the poor, especially the black poor, the police are judge, jury, and executioner.

    The Trump base, to be clear, is surburban bourgeois whites, and rural whites, and a fair number of affluent white men who traditionally vote Republican. And more than a few are educated. Though it is worth examining what anyone means by educated today. The Republican financial elite, for the most part, abandoned Trump to sign-on with Hillary.

    I have had friends, liberals, white, become infuriated at any stigmatizing of Hillary Clinton. I was told it was reproducing the sexism of Trump. Now I find this interesting and I think what interests me the most is that it reflects the not so deeply buried colonialist mind set of liberals. I also got a very polite and intelligent letter from a woman regarding my last article. But she, too, complained that I was minimizing the sexual violence against women in the U.S. But see, it is important to examine how that violence operates exactly. For much of what is behind the systemic violence against women is a deeply entrenched idea of privilege. Remember, too, that the Clintons (both) have inflicted massive state violence on the poor in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Somalia, Honduras and Haiti. These are facts. One cannot separate the fact that police deadly force on the streets of poor America is reproducing the military violence on the streets of Iraq and Libya etc. and the legacy of the violence of chattel slavery. The U.S. is the worlds leading manufacturer of weapons that kill. We are the death merchants for the world. But the white bourgeoisie that is so up in arms about Trump were never up in arms when the U.S. bombed the civilians in Yemen or Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor were they up in arms about mass incarceration. And not a single word, not one, not ONE word during the presidential non debates about the massive prison strike going on across the U.S. prison system. The white bourgeoisie doesn’t care. What they do care about, apparently, is the casual sexism they have endured and the workplace insults and misogyny of their employers. And, rape. And no larger culture of rape exists than the U.S. military. I trust that the contradictions are becoming clearer. One cannot turn a blind eye to the violence inflicted on the poor globally, on the women and families in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere, and remain, also, silent on the subject of military rape, and complain about Trump’s sexism. YES he is sexist. But the new wave of shaming turned on Melania Trump has been truly appalling. The body shaming of Trump, the ridicule has been pretty extensive. But behind all this is the fact that the global periphery (from the point of view of western capital) is mostly black and brown, and Muslim and most everything except white. This is the colonial aspect. So deeply engrained is colonialist thinking that violence against muslims is normalized and accepted. The white liberal will decry Islam’s treatment of women, though often with little grasp of the history and culture of Islam. Most have never been to an Islamic country. Hollywood does nothing except vilify Islam and glorify the U.S. military. Also, it is not insignificant to recall that under Bill Clinton, the U.S. supported the Raul Cedras junta in Haiti that instituted a systematic policy of rape and sexual violence against the women of Haiti (the Lavalas movement, led by Aristide, was mostly driven by women). There were an estimated fifty thousand rapes directed at the political opposition (see Junta, Rape, and Religion in Haiti, 1993-1994 Terry Rey, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion Vol. 15, No. 2 Fall 1999). This is who Bill and Hillary supported.

    And then there is the question of Hillary’s close ties to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (as well as her top aide Huma Abadin). They behead queers in Saudi Arabia. Woman are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia was the single largest contributor to the Clinton Foundation.

    The intolerance of the Trump base is, of course, huge. And this touches on not just this U.S. election, but the Brexit vote, and the rise of white wing anti immigration parties in Europe. The rejection of globalization is now nearly complete. Except for the privileged white voter in the U.S. who remains *confused* by this wave of populist xenophobia and racism.

    Patrick Higgins wrote recently:

    “As the United States and Europe violated the sovereignty of postcolonial Middle Eastern states at will, they raised their own borders more vigilantly than ever, eager to keep out the “barbarian hordes.” Right-wing culturalist tropes began to be raised about the ostensible threat the dispossessed masses of the Middle East posed to the “traditional values” of “Western civilization.””

    Higgins adds…

    “in order to reclaim the internationalist and anti-imperialist legacy bequeathed by Marxism-Leninism, it will be necessary to reiterate and explain that right-wing “anti-imperialists”— Third Positionists, American constitutionalists and libertarians, and so on—are in fact not anti-imperialist at all, only appearing to be anti-imperialist in the face of left media networks in service to the interventionists, from ’68 leftist intellectuals such as Bernard Henri-Levy to old-style Yankee crusaders for the White Man’s Burden such as John McCain. The concretization of regime change as official policy comes out of the demands of finance capital, but there is nonetheless an ongoing debate within imperialism about how it should be managed. It must be kept in mind, for example, that right-wing libertarians in the United States, while objecting to regime change doctrine, wish to save the United States, not to put an end to the settler-colonial prisonhouse of nations built on genocidal property claims.”

    The reality of U.S. Imperialism is the huge forgotten piece in public discourse today. The Hillary Clinton supporter, the idiotic Gloria Steinham or the opportunistic Michael Moore, or a dozen others, are pro Imperialists. Just as the pseudo left once seen in the signers of the Euston Manifesto, were pro Imperialism. The rise here in Europe of right wing parties is firstly a rejection of globalization and all austerity measures, but this dissatisfaction is delivered in the dress of nativist jingoistic volkish populism. Blame the immigrants is the call of the European bourgeoisie. They clothe such sentiments in rational discussions of protecting their fellow citizens from various diseases, or in the irrational language of pure racist demagoguery — all the while blissfully ignorant of the fact that Western imperialism has created the current refugee pseudo crises. And its clear Europe, for the record, could take in far more refugees. The total refugee numbers still amount to less than 5% of the population of Europe.

    In the U.S. the Trump base is doing much the same thing, albeit with a particular near obsession with rolling back the rights of the LGBT community. And this suggests something else, culturally. Loic Wacquant made the observation that where over four decades the ghetto came to increasingly resemble the prison, that over the last two decades the prison has come to resemble the ghetto. This is something Eddie Bunker once said to me, too. While this is, I think, only partially true, it served as justification for more and more draconian human rights violation (solitary, super max joints, etc). And the new populist political movement also reflected, increasingly, a kind of gangsterism. The gangster model of social organization has taken root across the political spectrum (save for socialists). The Clinton machine just as much, or more, than Trump, operates like a mafia or the Aryan Brotherhood. Even Obama instituted a kind of *omerte* code on his administration. Public discourse of any meaningful kind has all but been completely erased. And behind this, again, is the engine of Imperialism and neo liberalism. The inflicting of austerity and privatization, and the rest of financial capitalism’s strategies for extracting maximum value from people and planet link up directly with the original colonial project and the slave trade. The privatized for profit prison is quite simply the new plantation with slave labour.

    “Having no economic function, incarcerated black bodies are now simply warehoused, abused, and left to die–if not a physical death, a social death.”

    Cynthia Nielsen

    “Yet the discourse surrounding punishment policy invariably discounts the humanity of the thieves, drug sellers, prostitutes, rapists, and, yes, those whom we put to death. It gives insufficient weight to the welfare, to the humanity, of those who are knitted together with offenders in webs of social and psychic affiliation. What is more, institutional arrangements for dealing with criminal offenders in the United States have evolved to serve expressive as well as instrumental ends. We have wanted to “send a message,” and we have done so with a vengeance. In the process, we have created facts. We have answered the question, who is to blame for the domestic maladies that beset us? We have constructed a national narrative. We have created scapegoats, indulged our need to feel virtuous, and assuaged our fears. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is them.”

    Glenn Loury

    The homophobia of the Republican party is worth noting. Mike Pence seems the poster boy for homophobic panic. But again, the bourgeoisie overall still retains a certain degree of class protection. That said, the Campus Sexual Assault Study, 2007, saw that 1 in 5 women experienced a completed or attempted rape while in school. (National Institute of Justice). Globally the numbers are even worse. In 2014, 23 per cent of non-heterosexual women (those who identified their sexual orientation as lesbian, bisexual or other) interviewed in the EU indicated having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by both male and female non-partner perpetrators, compared with five per cent of heterosexual women. There is also the global issue of human trafficking. But a reminder here, that almost always the worst rape and violence against women and homosexuals occur around or near military bases. And the U.S. has close to 800 military bases worldwide. Much like gun control, violence against women cannot be separated from the violence of war and occupation. There is a very needed psychoanalytical exploration of white patriarchy as it expresses itself culturally, and in how and why it reproduces such a magnitude of violence. And indeed, the prototypical Trump follower is an exemplar of patriarchal privilege. However, its important to also remember the white liberal privilege overall in the U.S. And that includes all sexual orientations. The most vulnerable and marginalized in the gay community are poor queers of color, and transfolks. This hierarchical structure of privilege mirrors the structures of privilege overall.

    The Brexit vote and the Trump victory have sent shock waves of anxiety through the ruling elite in financial institutions globally, but in particular in the crumbling EU. And the ongoing Imperialist project of the U.S. and its sidemen in Europe, particularly the U.K., that control over a trillion dollars in mining rights across Africa is ignored. Not surprisingly the largest spike in military base building has taken place in Africa over the last decade. In other words, the upset white liberals wringing their hands at the Trump victory and his threats against immigrants have been perfectly alright with the U.S. and UK bombing African and middle eastern countries as a means to control resources. As Tim Anderson put it, its *vanity anti-racism*.

    The colonial white liberals so up in arms about potential Trump effects domestically have remained stone dead silent about war crimes against women and children in Yemen by Saudi Arabia (and now directly the U.S.) and U.S. and NATO crimes against civilians, women and children in Libya (where U.S. backed militias lynched countless black refugees) and U.S. and NATO bombing of Iraq. Silent. The only conclusion one can arrive at is that Muslim women don’t really count. Unless of course its a protest against poverty or child soldiers or genital mutilation, or some other issue to which white paternalism can be applied. And then of course, one could discuss Honduras and Haiti. Or Obama’s relentless erasure of civil liberties.

    The legitimate fear of violence against queers, and an uptick in hate crimes in the U.S. cannot, in the end, be separated from six decades of institutional neglect of the poor across the U.S. A neglect that rises to the level of sadism. Nor from the realities of mass incarceration, and the militarizing of police. All of which took place during both Democratic and Republican presidencies. Nor can it be separated from a culture and entertainment industry that manufactures endless narratives valorizing male violence, militarism, and tropes that posit the police as the last protection from a criminal underclass (nearly always black and brown). The American public has been trained and inundated with popular entertainments that are now so saturated with excessive sadism and violence that it is weird when one doesn’t see such violence in film and TV. And its not violence per se, as I have often said, it is a particular form of casual violence, usually in the hands of men in uniform, that is given legitimacy. Violence in the hands of anyone else is transgressive and unnatural.

    The real question is, finally, how do such grotesque immoral people control the government. Trump is picking from the same class of neo con hawk as Hillary planned to — Bob Corker replaces Michelle Flournoy. I don’t personally see much difference. Gingrich or Nuland? The same privately funded think tanks churn out these ghouls. The Enterprise Institute, CATO, the Heritage Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, The Brookings Institute, The Center for American Progress, The Rand Corporation, Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Hoover Institute. The list is pretty long. Whats pretty funny, but also revealing, is that think tanks labeled *liberal* (like Center for Strategic and International Studies) include members such as Madeleine Albright and Ehud Barak. The point is that the entirety of this gigantic bureaucratic apparatus, from Wall Street to the NGOs have been in the service, for sixty or seventy years, along with the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, and U.S. State Department, of destroying any socialist movements globally that happen to occur. And with squashing dissent domestically. And with disseminating a constant never ending stream of anti communist, and anti socialist propaganda, and with the dissemination of propaganda to label alternative views and values as crazy or fringe (the smearing of Stein/Baraka is the most recent clear example).

    So forgive me if I can’t find it in me to care much about Trump. If protesting Trump expands to become a protest against neo liberalism, against militarism and war, and against white supremacy — then count me in. Or lets have some teach-ins. Until then we can all try to educate ourselves and others.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/...-long-shadows/

    Just want to point out that ya don't have to be 'educated' to be petty booj, don't take no degree to run(and actually work at) a small company, manage some franchises. These complement and outnumber the 'professionals'.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  11. #51
    Degradation



    Nicholas Rubinstein

    “…men have less scruple in offending
    one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of
    obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity
    for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment
    which never fails”
    Machiavelli

    “The endgame can never be played with the same conviction with which it was played when the game was being invented.”
    Donald Kuspit

    “In other words, it is not so much a question as to whether we are able to cure a patient, whether we can or not, but whether we should or not.”
    Ernest Becker

    The *fake news* speech Obama delivered recently, and the accompanying articles in those organs of Imperial rule, the NY Times and Washington Post, are only the latest, albeit most extreme, expressions of criminalizing dissent that began, really, if one wants to go all the way back, with the Immigration Acts of 1903 and 1917 and the Espionage and Sedition Act also of 1917.

    Geoffrey Skoll wrote…
    “The Smith Act, also known as the Alien Registration Act of 1940,
    made political beliefs and activities conditions of immigration, and made
    advocacy of overthrowing the government a crime (Goldstein 1978; Preston
    1963). These laws, although couched in the apparently objective language of
    the Anglo-American legal tradition, aimed at suppression of what authorities
    deemed dangerous ideas held by dangerous people, particularly the recent
    immigrants from Eastern Europe and Black migrants from the South to the
    North. The confluence of politics, political beliefs, and status identities did
    not just apply to nationalities or ethnic groups, it also applied to salient racial
    categories in America.”


    Edvard Munch (Dance of Life, 1899, detail).

    All of these government legislative acts were expressions of ruling class anxiety about the masses getting the wrong ideas into their heads. The attacks on organized labor in the summer of 1919 included a ramped up racial element as the black migration north was creating worry in the white worker, and acute worry in the guardians of Capital. Following WW2 the anti communism that can be traced back to the 1860s was re-branded in a new hyper jingoistic paranoia with the McCarthy witch hunts. Then in the 1960s the FBI began pro actively targeting black radicals. But cutting across all of these phases of manufacturing fear was a growing emphasis on exploiting social anxiety. People were encouraged to distrust each other. To fear their neighbor. The post 9/11 propaganda, while certainly pushing an Islamophobic sentiment, has also ratcheted up a generalized fear as a normal and even salutary psychological state. The haute bourgeoisie have been the most responsive to this latest *fake news* ploy by the government. Because firstly, it is Obama saying it, and second because it flatters their well marketed sense of self. That self is the new rational man, the sober realistic individual. And nobody has delivered that sense of sobriety as well as Obama. In the coming decades, if any of us survive, Obama will be looked back on as the most perfect marketing creation in history. (I suspect Michelle Obama may well be a Democratic Party candidate before too long).


    Helena Almeida

    The average white liberals response to Fidel Castro’s death speaks to this idea of propagandized white individuality. Castro’s support of African independence, his solidarity against apartheid and the achievements domestically in the removal of illiteracy in Cuba, and a world class health care system are mostly ignored. And part of this is linked to the underreported rightward lurch of the Hollywood entertainment industry. And one part of this rightward lurch was to re-configure the white supremacist backdrop to American social history. The noted *Southern Strategy* that Nixon employed was to later morph into a more stealth racism that sought to present itself as a progressive integrationist trope. And indeed on certain levels this was true. There was a certain clear progress. But the backdrop remained white. Hollywood has never really capitulated its white supremacist model for story telling. And by the time of Obama this deep racist history was simply omitted. The omission was not total, of course. But the ‘white savior’ theme did become pronounced, but even that was not the real story. The severity of the U.S. political class’ racism was muted — films on J. Edgar Hoover smoothed over the virulent hatred Hoover had for blacks and latinos. And the viciousness of U.S. police racism and a deeply racist judicial system were all but ignored. In a sense this was Hollywood doing a ‘limited hang out’ on white supremacism. The very phrase ‘white supremacism’ was reserved for hood wearing Klansmen and Aryan nationalists. The deeper racial resentments of institutional America were invisible in media and in Hollywood film. And increasingly along side this was a gradual removal of working class voices. Today Hollywood is the provenance of the very affluent white bourgeoise. Class is acutely segregated in Hollywood film. The most honest depiction of working class America in Hollywood is likely The Simpsons. A show like Orange is the New Black can serve as the default and accepted position of whiteness in Hollywood. And with Obama as President, the affluent educated classes can congratulate themselves on their progressive entertainment products as well as point to the fact that a post racial America must exist because, after all, the President himself is black.


    Janine Antoni

    The post Vietnam policies of the ruling class was to merge Communists, blacks, and later Muslims — along with hippies and anything that smacked of anti-establishment values into one basket. All of it was to become associated with anti-Americanism. The now volunteer military was to be very consciously fawned over and this militarized hyper patriotism theme was seen in everything from Hollywood film to sporting events and journalism. And while the right wing outlets like FOX were obvious targets of derision for liberals, the fact is that the liberal media (CNN and MSNBC et al) were actually just as jingoistic. With the advent of 9/11 the entire apparatus of propaganda in the U.S. merged into a single message: the war on terror must be fought. And it must be won. And that war is a war on the global south. The side bar effects included an exaggerated coverage of any kind of social transgression or crime. From sexual predators, to high crime inner cities and black gangs, to immigration threats and even super viruses lurking at the gates to the white world. Fortress America was born. And even the weather became criminalized (Killer storms, etc). Drug addicts and the homeless were targets. This marked a resurgent Puritanism that saw that which waited at the gates to the Fortress as being not only dangerous and violent, but also unclean. The rise of health care concerns with allergies was just one by product of this. I knew people who claimed tests had proven they had an allergy to trees. Alongside this ran the dramatic spike in the use of psychoactive drugs. The white class were taking industrial level amounts of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The culture of anti depressants became an almost fashion in the white professional class. By 1990 over 650,000 prescriptions were being written for SSRIs. In 2009 it was estimated that close to 15% of adults took SSRIs, and that figure does not include those under the age of twenty. And there are increasing numbers of teenagers who are prescribed anti depressants. There are currently studies underway to see if triple reuptake versions might be even more effective. But effective at what, exactly? The notion of depression itself is very opaque and a society that is this depressed might well want to examine what they mean when they say they are depressed. But to ask that, of course, means asking a whole lot of other questions. In the society of manufactured fears the notion of depression is mitigated by an anxiety that rises out of a completely mystified idea of the social good. Of what society itself means. What meaning means.


    Haroshi

    The postmodern critique of modernism always included the idea of modernism as totalizing — and that it propagated the metanarratives of the white bourgeoisie. This critique was both right and not right. The ‘not right’ part is a lot of what I have tried to write about in this blog. The modernists of the late 19th century were already driven by a desire to find a way out of the social matrix of linear perspective, the Renaissance framing of the world had become ossified in the Western psyche. Geoff Skoll wrote….“Thoroughly bourgeois, they also strove to escape the incunabula of capital and the market.” There was in many artists an acute awareness of their class and race. But more, there was a search for revelation — for some way out of the dynamics of capital, of industrialism and rationality. Increasingly I have come to feel that the mid century exhaustion of modernist energy marked an exhaustion of resistance. And in a sense this is misunderstood by the left as much as the right. Or rather, the right never cared anyway. The reactionary who validates by rote the hierarchies of the white paternalist Capitalist system are quite indifferent to the expressions of artists. The left however never really could admit the importance of art. Even today I hear words like *precious* tossed around with a sneer. How that happened is, I suspect, very complex.


    Blow Up (dr. : Michelangelo Antonioni) 1966.

    The financial phase of Capitalism reflected the schism in modernist art by mid century. And the growing neurosis of the bourgeoisie. The sense of unreality, of confusion that came from separating the ephemeral from the concrete, was a huge factor in the arts — from Abstract Expressionism to the Theatre of the Absurd. And in film, the most collective of art forms and the one most linked to Capital, it was the secondary and buried anxieties of Western society that were coming to eclipse aspects of even the most commercial products. Antonioni, in hindsight, looms as the chronicler of bourgeois neurosis. Blow Up was the search for that which isn’t there, that which the system of exploitation had removed. What was it that was removed? On the surface (as found in the Cortozar short story on which the screenplay is based) the answer is a murder. In this sense, it resembles Highsmith’s novel Tremor of Intent, Coppola’s The Conversation, and probably a dozen black mask crime novels. But it is echoed in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, as well. And in a perverse way, Strangers on a Train, and I Confess. The Freudian primal scene now looms as the shadow narrative. And the sense of Capital’s lack of concrete representation is now tied in directly with libidinal repression. Antonioni also included scenes referencing Guy Fawkes Day — not arbitrarily to be sure. The trust of that which we cannot see is imprinted from Old Testament writings. Paul on the road to Damascus. Blinded by the light but hearing the voice of Christ. Throughout the King James Bible, old and new testaments, there is a sense of voices without location, and of something very like cinematic reality.

    Peter Goodman writes, in a short essay on the film:

    “The new economy portrayed in the film is based on style and marketing, not the production of commodities. The worn-out relics of industry have become the target of Thomas’s talent for aestheticizing. Early in the picture, Thomas {the photographer} emerges in disguise from a flophouse where he was surreptitiously taking black & white photographs for his photo book, which will be presumably be a high-brow project establishing his credentials as a serious artist. He photographs the derelicts of working-class life, dispassionately presenting their grotesque bodies as aesthetic spectacle. Nineteenth-century novelistic realism or Italian neo-realism would have represented the lives of such people sympathetically and in-depth, as the victims of industrialization. For postmodernity, industry is somehow not as “real” as marketing, the aesthetic “value-added” that makes the difference between success and failure in an economy which has largely solved the problem of production.”


    Lori Nix

    The Horkheimer and Adorno riff on sacrifice is germane here, too.
    “The level of mythology at which the self appears as sacrifice to itself is an
    expression not so much of the original conception of popular religion, but
    the inclusion of myth in civilization. In the history of class conflict, the
    enmity of the self to sacrifice implied a sacrifice of the self, inasmuch as it
    was paid for by a denial of nature in man for the sake of domination over
    non-human nature and over other men. This very denial, the nucleus of all
    civilizing rationality, is the germ cell of a proliferating mythic irrationality:
    with the denial of nature in man not merely the telos of the outward control
    of nature but the telos of man’s own life is distorted and befogged…”

    But narrative in Hollywood no longer operates this way. It is anti narrative in a sense. The 19th century novel developed as monopoly Capitalism and colonialism developed. The consumer, a member of a market, was becoming defined by purchasing power. The observer, the tracker of market trends, the detective in a search for financial clues. The Hollywood film of today is almost post financial capital. It is the story of the commodity viewing the viewer. And perhaps this is the secret of a surveillance state. The ostensive viewer is really being viewed viewing. Stories almost do not exist today without recourse to closed circuit camera footage. The trope of facial recognition is one that *identifies* subjects, who are otherwise without identity. The photographer in Blow Up is looking for something, and an aspect of that is an identity. Today the public is like that which was removed in the park of Blow Up, a predictive effect of algorithms, a subject waiting to materialize. And there is the linkage with guilt. To materialize is to be accused, somehow.


    Ferdinand Hodler

    Skoll quotes Franco Moretti…

    “It is, therefore, completely logical that stream of consciousness is eminently
    paratactic: the absence of internal order and of hierarchies indicates its
    reproduction of a form of consciousness which is subjugated to the principle
    of the equivalence of commodities. It indicates that use-values—the concrete
    qualities of any given commodity—are by now perceived as secondary. . . .
    What is left to fire the imagination and inflame desire is only the overall
    attraction of the chaotic and unattainable collection of commodities…”

    The post modern elimination of liberation as something of material realness was the product, in the end, of corporate and ruling class interests emphasizing the abstraction quality of identity as the real. But by also substituting a pre-made self as stand in for self in general. The shopper-man, homo-praestino perhaps. My latin is almost non existant. But this subject position was one that needed constant updating. The white self, that which unconsciously *knows* that Castro was helping liberate Africa, a former colonial holding of Europe, of white Europe, must demean and stigmatize. Today the bourgeoisie in the U.S. is in the midst of a collective nervous breakdown.

    “Just as a part of every analysand fears analysis and resists it, mature adults in contemporary societies fear losing the securities of hierarchical
    control. It is safer to keep things as they are. It is safer not to know how elites control people to extract wealth. It is safer not to take responsibility

    for their own lives but to hand it over to someone else whom they can blame if things go wrong….{ } The analogy between psychoanalytically defined repression and societal level political repression is not just simile or metaphor. Despite psychoanalytic concentration on the personal and psychological, much, if not all, psychological repression finds reinforcement—and often even its origins—in massive, orchestrated social, cultural, and political repression..”

    Geoffrey Skoll


    Achilles Gildo Rizzoli


    This is a crucial aspect of understanding today’s cultural meltdown. The end of modernism, which for the sake of discussion can be said to coincide with the social upheaval of the sixties, has ushered in the post humaness of today. One of Skoll’s most brilliant observations is that social control is about repression. Psychological repression and political repression are inseparable. They are interdependent. Micro systems of enforcement reflect larger, even global, systems of enforcement. Today, the micro systems of coercion are mostly invisible to the average American (and European, really). And this leads Skoll to the very perceptive observation that the post modern critique of Hardt and Negri serves as counter revolutionary. This is also the failure of more obvious counter revolutionaries like Zizek. When the oppressor exists nowhere, there is nothing to revolt against. Which is why so much post structuralist thought instinctively supports globalization. Why the educated bourgeoisie are appalled at the Brexit vote. Why so few applaud the legacy and achievements of the Cuban Revolution.


    *Donut Queen*, photographer unknown. 1950s.


    But to return to the idea of culture, today. Hollywood produces a never ending non stop stream of reactionary police state apologia. But none of it is convincing, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because narrative and art in general is no longer grasped or engaged with as it was only fifty or sixty years ago. Much as Obama represented a black man as manufactured by the Cosby Show (per Skol) the new gay rights movement is subsumed by TV and film to help with reinforcing a hierarchy of social status that leaves whiteness at the top. Civil rights was absorbed by Obama, as queer rebellion was absorbed by TV characters who comply with the status quo but happen to be gay — everything is now a reflection of simulacra.

    “Discourses about race in the United States are not just the products
    of structuring influences and regulatory technologies. They are produced
    in the representations and logic of commonsense racial knowledge
    constituted in media such as television news and entertainment.
    Law and legal discourse is crucial as a subject of media representation.
    The dramatic investment in law enforcement and a fascination with
    legal discourse are timeless staples of American television. With this
    investment, television programs about crime and the criminal justice
    system function as a means of establishing the normative legitimacy and
    moral propriety of the present legal system no matter how corrupt and
    abusive. So, for example, story lines about the lives and antics of the
    rich, famous, and corrupt are commonplace, as are narratives about the
    arrest and incarceration of black males. Stories about the unbridled
    growth of global corporate capital, the increasing concentration of the
    ownership structure of the telecommunications industry for example,
    are rare. In matters of race and representation, law and legal discourse
    are especially crucial because they are the structuring scenes or sites in
    which organizing narratives about fairness, civility, propriety, transgression,
    and responsibility are framed.”
    Herman Gray


    Andy Warhol

    The frame is always ruling white elite, and even when its not, it is. By which I mean that so pervasive is this dominant frame that all countering frames are just subsumed into the single frame of white rule. The language of Television, today, is one of nearly absolute bourgeois whiteness. It is hard to even notice how uniform and homogenous is the dialogue for 90% of studio product. Subjectivity, the subjectivity of the underclass is non existent. The lower classes, the marginalized figures and the images of decay are always narrated by the ruling class (even when silent). The average American largely goes about his day to day life narrating his own sense of identity and place using this borrowed vocabulary. These are broad statements, and not accurate in their totality, but they represent a growing basic truth; the screen life of the West is white corporate and affluent. And screen reality is more important, holds more authority, than individual experience. The sense of this was part of the prophetic vision of late modernism. The rise of Pop Art was already expressing a sense of this loss of expression — the missing experience, the missing primal scene, the primal murder, was all being erased. In its place stood soup cans. And in a sense, those soup cans of Warhol have come to feel menacing and malignant. Warhol was not just displaying the commodity, he was doing something akin to a reverse Xray. The sense of the viewer being viewed congealed in the best work that came of Pop. There was a deep sense of social anxiety in that work. The well known ‘gold Marilyn’ made in 1962, the year of Monroe’s death, looms as something like a Byzantine momenti mori. And this comparison is likely not accidental (I’m sure I read that somewhere, but can’t remember where) because Warhol’s work starts to feel like the post script to Antonioni. The photographer of ‘swinging London’, an empty man in search of relevance (per the opening sequence at the homeless shelter) finds the mystery in the series of photos he takes — where it no longer matters what is there or what isn’t. Fincher’s one really rather good film, Zodiac, is another study of this almost Warholian anti mystery. The identity (!) of the killer ceases to be the point. It is that gnawing sense of unease in contemporary Western society that what you look for can’t be found. And this inability to secure a definition, or to find solutions, is the quantum world that marks the end of something, the end of Newtonian physics. But it is also the rearing of the ugly head of the Death Drive. Advanced Capital is now so thoroughly contaminated with premonitions of apocalypse that it is hard to find one’s way out of it. The detective trope that began with scientific advances in optics, revealing a world of previously unseen details is ending in the culture of surplus details.


    Jasper Johns

    Warhol would have loved Trump. In fact Trump is a Warhol artwork come to life in some strange reverse osmosis. For the death drive culture of Capital today is also the culture of waste, of refuse, or anality. The late Pop period luxuriated in shit; both as allegory and literally as mock outrage or scandal. Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ is perhaps the most notable example. But Donald Kuspit was right to note that the sort of post Pop avant garde was reactionary, and self loathing, finally. The debased, or the abject, were not allegory, but simply shit.
    “…the avant-garde became reactionary the moment it was completely swallowed up by capitalism — they’re just shamelessly perverse, like the sex-scandal and corrupt politicians and violent and sex-mad movies that American society seems to mass produce. And also, like them, tragicomic: their shit symbolizes the comic tragedy that art has become and the tragic comedy that America has become. To hide behind a symbol is a form of shame, and shame is socializing…”
    Donald Kuspit

    I should add another quote here, from Kuspit, from the same short essay…

    “The advanced work of art has become a luxury item, the artist’s expensive gift to the advanced capitalist, the most esteemed person in our society, all the more so because making money has become an advanced art in the minds of many, suggesting that the wealthy businessman has a creative gift. Thus the divine rights of the rich. The rich capitalist is a god in all but name, and he must be worshipped and appeased with the fruits of art — a form of tribute and homage — who rewards the artist by making him a rich capitalist — deifying him. “


    Richard Hamilton

    Thus, the gift to the ruling class is one’s own feces. For this is the real allegory of the art market. The psychic strip mining of consumer culture has reached new levels of violence.

    “For this is the essential meaning of private secret: that entry
    must be invited. Consequently the spaces in which we are
    exposed owing to undress, lavatory or sexual functions, the
    requirements of quiet or undisturbed activity, tend to be
    enclosed, lockable. We may even resist telephone intrusion by
    leaving the receiver off. We may browse among a friend’s books
    on the shelf but will not look inside his desk. We knock before
    entering the closed door of the bath even in our own homes. The
    establishment of this boundary of privacy and secrecy is conventional
    and if we traverse it unawares we avert the eyes and
    hastily retreat with apologies. “
    Donald Meltzer


    British sailor removing leg irons from slave. Late 1800s.


    The search for the missing self, from Antonioni to, perhaps, Warhol, can be traced back to that most prophetic of narraters, Herman Melville. Whether Bartelby or Ahab or Ishmael or Billy Budd, the sense of an impending social violence never leaves. Meltzer suggests that a theory of violence is predicated upon boundaries and secrecy. Violence is violation of the boundaries we create, and socially, at a macro level, this is also what Capital does. The movement of Capital is one (usually) of penetration. The symbolism is difficult to ignore. Nor is it arbitrary. One of the ways individuals manufacture protective screens is through meaningless talk. Pinter was the great explorer of the menace of meaningless conversation. Bion and Klein both wrote of this screening protection in terms of generalized group behavior. One can look at social organizing on the family level and extrapolate from there. Violation is critical to childhood development in the sense that it must be adjusted for. Reich wrote extensively about what he called *character armoring*.

    “The social armour that presents as comradery and my-life-is-an-open-book is typical of the politician in our culture, just as the facade of typical-family man is often the screen for dedicated perversity.”
    Donald Meltzer

    The assumed authority of institutions, and their political representatives is rarely given much consideration today. This, in one way, is the story of *fake news*. The NY Times, with a long history of proven lies is still the benchmark for authoritative reporting. As Metlzer notes, the display of rank, of uniform, is inherently intrusive. Uniformed police assume and are given a degree of confessional conversation. There is much more to say about all this, and I hope to do so next posting. Bion wrote a good deal about narcissism, and the narcissistic organization of the infantile private body. And more germane perhaps is the topic of degradation. For this is one of the cornerstone realities of contemporary society, I believe. What Meltzer calls the coarsening of ethical values. The age of Trump is really the age of neo liberalism, the age of the death of whiteness. And of patriarchy. Capitalism is death, and itself is dying.

    In dreams there is a logic of degradation. The splitting of the self, and this is an important aspect of aesthetics.

    “But alertness to the manifestations of aesthetic conflict soon makes one recognize that the most important aspects of the degradation occur in this very dimension: degraded beauty of the objects and degradation.”
    Meltzer


    Vasudeo Gaitonde

    The logic moves from known or identifiable person, to unknown, to inanimate object, to vegetable or mineral, to feces. Degraded beauty is the arena of keenest insight. In a society of hegemonic surveillance, of constant accusation, the shame of the private — both of body and soul, is the real violence of contemporary life. The physical violence of the state is enormous, of course. It is now, at all times, sadistic. But behind even that is a kind of contagion of psychic life. Secrecy is outward directed. Privacy is individual, is the construction of the self. When a society grants authority to the invasion, the penetration of privacy, the result is a loss of capacity for intimacy, a loss of understanding of the boundaries of the self. Shakespeare, the greatest practitioner of the private, is performed today as if he were the author of a DC Comix. Strindberg and Melville are incomprehensible, I think. Dostoyevsky an enigma. Hierarchy itself is sadistic.

    “The other reason to fear the empire stems from its role in class war. From
    its beginning, capitalism had to gain surplus value from labor. The same
    holds true in the twenty-first century. The empire ensures that the supply of
    value from labor continues uninterrupted by enforcing labor discipline and
    protecting against revolt. The burgeoning of militarized policing, surveillance,
    and support of death squads and other terrorists organizations serve in
    the global class war at least as much as their employment in imperialist
    adventures and aggression.”
    Geoffrey Skoll


    Wolfgang Laib

    Trump is a figure that triggers associations with rape. Capitalism is the macro story of rape. If Hillary Clinton was actually the more clearly dangerous political leader, Trump is the better symbol for the end of Capital. The allegory of penetrative capital is already being written and Trump is not even sworn in. The degrading of culture and the intentional and almost aggressive trivializing of art is not insignificant. Any dismissive attitude toward art is revealing of individual pathology, I think. I end with this lengthy quote from Meltzer, taken from a lecture he gave in 1963.
    “We are agreed that the successful work of art is compelling; it
    induces a process in us, an experience whereby the viewer’s
    integration is called upon in the depressive position to restrain
    his attacking impulses, for the sake of a good introjection; it
    means allowing the good object to make a good kind of
    projection into one’s inner world: It requires judgement to
    distinguish the good from the bad processes of sadism in the
    artist; and masochism in himself, the viewer. I think it follows,
    therefore, that the experience of viewing art can be extremely
    taxing and extremely hazardous, but that the art-world, as an
    institution within our culture, provides a medium for people to
    carry out this introjective process in an atmosphere of relative
    external safety, corresponding to the safety of the little infant in
    the relative restraint of the mother’s arms. When one walks into
    an art gallery, one is surrounded by other people and there are
    guards and so on; all this constitutes a continual external
    support to one’s internal safeguards against attacking the pieces
    of art that are exhibited there. Similarly at a concert. It is well
    known that, in contrast to this safe viewing of art, at times of
    revolution or warfare, pillaging includes a wholesale destruction
    of everything of artistic value. There are instances when
    people of extremely unbalanced mental state have attacked
    priceless works of art in galleries. “

    http://john-steppling.com/2016/11/degradation/#comments
    Attached Images Attached Images
    The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

  12. #52
    To Go the Way of the Great Auk: the Clintons and the Media
    by JOHN STEPPLING



    Plantagenet, I will; and like thee, Nero,
 Play on the lute, beholding the towns burn.

    Shakespeare, Henry VI

    A number of writers and critics have noted the astounding smugness and outsized indignation of white liberals during this election season. The Clinton supporters, basically. And I think it is useful to examine the relationship between the media and the Clintons. For no political mafia has ever penetrated Hollywood and NY media to the extent the Clintons have. Shows such as Madame Secretary and House of Cards could well have been scripted by the Clinton inner circle. Hell, by Bill himself. And outlets like Huffington Post and MSNBC and CNN operate as the press outlets for the DNC.

    But the real nadir of media capitulation and bad faith was the response to the brutal murder of the Russian diplomat Andrei Karlov in Istanbul, on video, at an art opening. The western press spun this as a freedom fighter attacking the brutal Russian empire and defending Allepo. Almost nothing was said about the family of the slain Russian, or about terrorism. I guess terrorism doesn’t exist if its directed at the enemy du jour. The celebrations on the streets of Aleppo seemed to have been erased by western TV and print editors, too. And all of this is in line, of course, with Hillary Clinton’s (and her advisors) pathological and obsessive hatred of Putin. And with the Clinton imprint on mainstream media.

    So, back to those white liberals. Every single person (save one) that I once knew in theatre and in Hollywood, are liberal and none of them really do much in the way of research or political reading. All of them are arch Democrats. And never before, I don’t think ever, has an election so starkly revealed the stratification of classes and sub classes, even, in the U.S. I have found a just amazing, almost surreal level of wilful and intentional blindness on the part of liberal america to the crimes of the Clintons, and to the basic corruption of the Democratic Party. One can say over and over and over and over and over that Clinton orchestrated a neo nazi fascist coup in Ukraine, a fascist junta in Honduras and an illegal assassination of a foreign leader in Libya. You can say this again and again and I guarantee you will get no response. The stunning silence of white liberal America to the crimes of the Clintons stands as the most profound element in the entire scenario of this election.

    The propaganda against Russia, culminating in the truly grotesque coverage of Karlov’s murder, has been pitched at levels that I’ve personally never seen or heard before. And then there is a strange sort of cognitive dissonance regarding the *fake news* issue, launched, of course, by Obama. And this was the lame duck Obama, a figure that actually the public has not seen before, or seen very little. The urbane repressed buttoned down lawyer is being gradually peeled back and an oddly callused cruel figure emerges. A borderline sadist even. And while we know for certain that Hillary is a sadist, I think Obama is at least her equal. But of late Obama has exhibited a curious if not unsettling lack of proportion between his comments and his relaxed manner and style. It is the relaxation, one must say, of a sociopath. I don’t say this glibly. But during the fake news remarks I felt as if this must have been how detectives felt interviewing Ted Bundy. All smiles, winks, and good natured charm. But he was discussing a new open war on dissent. Obama initiated drone assassination and discussed it in the same tone as he discussed his vacations. In fact he joked about drone killing at the Correspondent’s Dinner a couple years back. There is, in this lame duck version of Obama, the sense of letting his character armoring slip just a little. And it reveals just another layer of armoring. There is such an empty core to this man that I think he made the perfect chameleon. He was the black Max Headroom. I am reminded of the Book of Job…Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue.

    That the economy is now a disaster cannot be hidden. In fact, 90% of Obama’s new jobs were part time. Women were hardest hit during his eight years.Traditional fields for women workers in medicine and education were the biggest losers. Full time employment, the traditional 9 to 5 secure fixed job is all but extinct. There are fewer of those jobs today than during the great depression. But this is not anything that really affects the haute bourgeoisie, the affluent white liberals from Connecticut, Long Island, or Westchester County, or Bel Air, the Pacific Palisades, or Westwood. Or Menlo Park and Mill Valley. The educated classes. They don’t work day gigs. They don’t punch time clocks. They inherit and their family helps find them managerial positions or something akin. These are the people disproportionately visible in media. They don’t live paycheck to paycheck. And this is the point. The stratification of classes. And the markers for these class divides are becoming more fixed. If you use public transportation, for example, you are part of the lumpen masses these days. Nobody rides a bus to work at NBC or SONY pictures or Time Warner. Except maybe the kitchen staff.

    Now, Trump is obviously, if we can judge from the last six months, a very thin skinned and rather terrified man. The son of a slum lord and a man who constantly seeks attention, and who wanted to be the biggest swinging dick in the house…well, once the Casino, now the White House. But he knows he’s not. And that can be a very dangerous personality flaw for someone with power. Trump’s eldest sons, Don Jr and Eric are perhaps the greatest indictment against Trump. I keep finding myself thinking of Roger Ballen’s famed photos of the Plattland farmers in South Africa; in particular Dressie & Cassie, the unfortunate twin brothers of the Transvaal. Don Jr and might well think, ‘there but for fortune’. But I digress.

    The protests in the street, the agitation around counting ballots, and the open charges of treason — this is the stuff of a Capra movie on acid. It’s a strange dystopic vision. (And as ridiculous in its way as the catered sit in for gun control earlier this year, also courtesy of the Democratic Party leadership). And all in service of somehow getting Hillary Clinton elected. As, I guess, these people feel was ordained by a higher power, and hence their sense of the world coming apart at the seams. Why has god forsaken them, one can almost hear such screams in the night. Honestly, the degradation of electoral politics has hit bottom. It has to be clear, to even the most indoctrinated, that the voting system is broken. The problem is, for all the Diebald troubles and hacking claims and the electoral college; the real problem is simply basic inequality. Period. There are a fair number of people with relative wealth and there are a shit load of people with nothing. People who have no savings, and who live week to week, even with a family. People who pay rent, use food stamps if they can get them, and who if they get sick, stay sick. Or die. People who, if their children get seriously ill, will borrow themselves into lifetime debt to save their child. A debt they cant hope to ever crawl out from under. People who count pennies to buy their Copenhagen or Skoal — and weigh that against another tin of coffee. This is the America who didn’t vote. They didn’t because they are busy surviving. And the average liberal heaps scorn on these people as apathetic or selfish or whatever. The truth is, the average professional class white liberal has no fucking idea what poverty feels like. None. And the poor know what the affluent liberal does not. And that is that Hillary doesnt give anymore of a shit about them than the Donald.

    The obvious take away from this has been touched on by several writers; Diana Johnstone wrote

    “The entire Western establishment, roughly composed of neoconservative ideologues, liberal interventionists, financial powers, NATO, mainstream media and politicians in both the United States and Western Europe, committed to remaking the Middle East to suit Israel and Saudi Arabia and to shattering impertinent Russia, have been thrown into an hysterical panic at the prospect of their joint globalization project being sabotaged by in ignorant intruder.”

    and Jonathan Cook noted…

    “Much more significantly, the systematic deceptions perpetrated by corporate media for many decades have left swaths of western publics distrustful and cynical. Social media has only added to widespread alienation because it has made it easier to expose to readers these mainstream deceptions. Trump, like Brexit, is a symptom of the growing disorientation and estrangement felt by western electorates.
But the claim of “fake news” does usefully offer western security agencies, establishment politicians and the corporate media a powerful weapon to silence their critics. After all, these critics have no platform other than independent websites and social media. Shut down the sites and you shut up your opponents.”

    And Andre Damon summed it up best, however…

    “There is not an ounce of democratic content in the positions of either faction of the state and intelligence apparatus and nothing to choose from between the arch-reactionary Trump and the veteran warmonger Clinton. However the disputes are resolved, the result will be a massive escalation of war abroad and the attack on the working class within the United States.”

    Indeed. And again, the leaked emails were real, the content was real, just as were those strange connections between Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Clintons have long had close ties with the royal family and never once have either of them made mention of the gross human rights violations of the monarchy. Obama, too, has said nothing critical of the Saudis. These politicians all answer to the same people and places. (read Hillary’s speeches to her Wall Street backers!).

    Now a recent poll indicated, interestingly, that almost 70% of Americans didn’t buy the Russia hacking claims. And half of America doesnt trust either party. And why should they? The new star of the DNC appears to be Keith Ellison of whome Bruce Dixon wrote… “Ellison is black. He’s the first Muslim elected to Congress, he’s smart enough and telegenic. He votes infallibly to support the apartheid regime in Israel, and he says if it were up to him there’d have been a no-fly zone (and possible shooting war with the Russians) a long time ago.” In other words, Ellison is another pro-interventionist, a friend of foreign war profiteers, and a man who has done everything in his power not to offend anyone. You don’t get to the top tier of the DNC without following the script.

    The anger of the bourgeoisie then is about something else. Its not really policy, its about their own entitlement. Its about their sense of affront and insult. This is what I keep seeing and reading. They are insulted and hurt. I’ve never seen such hostility and anger on social media. Never. I see a constant stream of insults directed at Trump. I see his wife insulted, and his children. And while it is easy enough to hate and even fear aspects of Trump (and his taste and vulgarity) the real anger seems directed even more acutely at anyone who disagrees with their demand for the coronation of Clinton. The underclass in the U.S. has been brutalized by an increasingly militarized domestic police apparatus, and by a nakedly racist judicial system. They have seen whatever small safety net they once had be reduced to almost nothing. And they are right to fear Trump’s appointments. Just as they would have been right to fear Clinton’s. This is now an institutional machine of control and domination, and in many ways it is running on auto pilot now. The stand off at Standing Rock was representative of the ruling elite’s strategy. If it becomes a big enough nuisance, then just adjust course and get what is wanted another way. The resistance at Standing Rock was important, however. Perhaps mostly symbolically, but important nonetheless. For it demonstrated a level of awakening for many. Anytime the underlcass organizes, they achieve victories. And this is because the great giant is actually very weak.

    Trump’s appointments are actually pretty predictable. No president in fifty years has not chosen from the banking elite, and the upper echelon of the military, and over the last twenty or so years from the corporate CEO class. And since Bill Clinton the very worst millionaires that can be found were put in positions of influence, and certainly since Bush/Cheney the neo-con group has retained considerable power. There is an inexorable drive toward purely authoritarian policing of what is now viewed as a disposable population. It is happening regardless of who is elected. There are no jobs and there won’t be any jobs. There is an environmental crisis and pollution crisis, and none of that would have been made any better under Clinton. One cannot keep hawking military hardware, fighter jets, and battleships and be at all green. The desire for this ruling cabal is global hegemony. That is the delusional dream of the U.S. ruling political class of both parties. Hence the over 4 billion dollars a DAY spent on defence. The U.S. leads the world in weapons sales. We sell to Saudi Arabia first so they can destroy the poor and helpless nation of Yemen. And in fact, the U.S. sent advisors directly to Riyadh to help coordinate the vicious bombing of that small country that left a half million children starving (liberals compassion is more concerned with public restroom choices). The U.S. helps sell to ISIS, too. And to Israel. There is nobody we won’t sell to in fact. Business is business and war is the biggest business in the world. So all the chatter about the Paris climate talks, and all the health care cut backs that are coming, and the intensification of this war on free speech — all of that was in the cards either way. The attacks on minorities, women, the LGBT community is coming under Trump — it was going to come, but in another fashion, under Clinton. AGAIN THEY BEHEAD GAY PEOPLE IN SAUDI ARABIA. And Clinton is basically underwritten by the House of Saud. Women have suffered hugely in places like Haiti and Honduras and Libya and Ukraine from Secretary of State Clinton’s policies. And nothing is going to help climate change except a radical and total change in living. And the death of Capitalism, frankly.

    The authority structure is afraid. They are afraid of China and Russia and they are even more afraid of the unhappy and now more and more desperate American working class. And the poor. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. And its growing. And it is reaching a kind of maximum limit. It is a gulag of made up of the poor, primarily black and brown, and it is a place to which the rich are never invited. How many people exactly can the system keep in containers? We may well find out. Jeff Sessions will want as many as possible, thats for sure. Trump is an ignorant man and no doubt it is dawning on him just how over his head he is now, and since I actually believe he began this with no desire to really win, he is probably in a state of near panic right now. His advisors, people like Steve Bannon, sense their own lack of ability to run a country, too, I would guess. Recent photos of Bannon reveal that deer caught in the headlights look.

    The thing that will become the signature of Trumps first 100 days is going to happen at the nuts and bolts level. I suspect things, daily bureaucratic things are going to grind to a halt. This is the 100 days of incompetence in the most basic operations of government. Trump will escalate his twitter output, though, and perhaps the eventual Trump library will all be tweets. And built in Vegas.

    What comes from all this depends on people deciding to emulate the small symbolic victory of Standing Rock. It does not come from an entitled elite petulantly demanding their war loving sociopath replace the other parties vulgarian and authoritarian clown. This is 21st century post modern fascism. Its only which style code you feel best with. Reject this binary world view. Reject any candidate who endorses U.S. Imperialism and 800 plus military bases throughout the world. Stop all U.S. intervention and stop believing the manufactured narratives on Syria, about Russia, about Castro, and about China. Most everything MSNBC tells you can be turned on its head…and it will be closer to the actual truth. The U.S. is far more guilty of everything it charges other countries with doing. As such Samantha Power deserves a special seat in hell. The U.S. commits more war crimes, more human rights violations, more interference in the affairs and elections of other countries, than anyone else. And we prosecute dissent more ruthlessly, and are the least transparent of any country in the world save maybe Uzbekistan. We have intelligence agencies fighting proxy wars with other of our intelligence agencies. The U.S. is now a massive societal dinosaur. To go the way of the Great Auk or Woolly Mammoth might not be such a bad thing for the planet.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/...and-the-media/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  13. #53
    Future Crimes
    by JOHN STEPPLING



    Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0

    “Precrime Analytical Wing: Contains the precognitives and the machinery needed to hear and analyze their predictions of future crimes.”

    Philip K. Dick, Minority Report

    “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”

    Martin Luther King

    “The intellectuals are the dominant group’s ‘deputies,’ exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government”.

    Gramsci

    There was a jaw dropping but not unexpected article at The Guardian this week. It was actually part of a series of pieces at that paper that have sought to manufacture a legacy for Obama, the outgoing president, since his actual legacy is one of imperialist foreign policy, CIA support of jihadists, right wing coups, and most acutely, perhaps, a massive subverting of free speech and civil liberties. What Robert Parry has called a ‘war on dissent’. The Guardian piece took the form of asking novelists, public intellectuals {sic} and TV hacks what they perceived to be Obama’s legacy — and even the use of that word, *legacy* is a loaded indicator of the direction this piece was headed. What struck me most was not the predictable support for Obama policy (more on that later) but the utter banality of the writing. There were writers in this group who I have admired (Richard Ford for one, Marilynne Robinson, as well) but the sentiments were so stupefyingly superficial, so fatuous and fawning that it was hard not to see this as a kind of mini referendum on the state of Western culture.

    Joyce Carol Oates (for whom ten words is usually better than the right word) described Obama as…“Brilliant and understated, urbane, witty, compassionate, composed..”. Siri Hutsvedt (who honestly I had to look up…finding her most notable achievement was being married to Paul Auster) wrote…“For eight years, we have been represented by an elegant, well-spoken, funny, highly educated, moderate, morally upright, preternaturally calm black man”. Richard Ford wrote…“This cold morning, when I think about Obama, immersed in what must be a decidedly mixed brew of emotions – mixed about his deeds, mixed about his effects on the US, decidedly mixed about our future – I’m confident he is thinking, right to his last minute in the office, as the president, and not much about, or for, himself. That’s what I expected when I voted for him – that he’d be a responsible public servant who’d try to look out for the entire country.” I know, I know, but that’s what he wrote. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Perhaps this is what a career of University teaching does to one. Edmund White called him one of our great presidents (love the use of *our*).

    Jane Smiley, who at the least mentioned TPP and drones, but ended with…“As a national leader, he has engendered more chaos, but it is necessary chaos – a loud and meaningful return to the question of what constitutes the real America.” A necessary chaos? The fuck does that mean? I ask that sincerely, sort of. By the time I reached the end of this saccharine mind numbing bathos I thought back to the 1968 Democratic Convention and to Esquire Magazine, in its golden era, who sent William Burroughs, Jean Genet, Terry Southern and John Sack to cover the convention. I thought back to Robert Bly and his organizing of Writers against the Vietnam war. The readings he gave with Galway Kinnell and Ginsburg, and a dozen others. And to the way Bly spoke of art and the role of art in a society. In an interview with Michael Ventura, around the time of the Iraq invasion…

    Bly:I don’t think we believe that a Great Mother is lying to us. It’s a father who’s lying to us. Thee whole system, in a way, is a father system.
Ventura: It’s a patriarchy, so it’s a father who’s lying.
Bly: Exactly. And we eventually get the sense that our own
father is lying to us. { } Whenever you have a culture completely run by gross
capitalism, all of the gods are driven away. Well, then what?
What does that mean when those gods are not present?

    Later Bly says…

    “When I talk about the world being mad, I tell people,
“You won’t believe how bad television is going to be in ten years.
You’re going to literally have to protect your children from it.”
And we’re not going to be able to change that. The only thing
we can do is recognize that it’s mad, and reach inside ourselves
and bring out our own genuine madness in the form of art,
and then teach our children to do the same.”

    In 68, a corporate owned magazine, and hardly a socialist magazine, thought it reasonable to ask Genet or Burroughs to discuss a political convention. I mean even Norman Mailer wrote intelligently on Kennedy for Esquire, and Mailer isn’t exactly Gramsci. My point is, or I hope my first point, is that it is not always crucial to demand ideological analysis. For art’s radical nature is outside ideology. Just speaking from a radical perspective, an anti bourgeois perspective, can be enough. But in 1968 the U.S. still had artists. What artist could you invite today? What public intellectual? The Guardian picked Sarah Churchwell (who again, I’d never heard of) who wrote…

    “The Obamas changed the rules for what it means to inhabit the White House, and not only because they were the first black family to do so. They were also the first modern family to do so, to be informal yet classy, upright yet kind, and, most important, themselves.”

    That’s it then, just be yourself. But the lesson here, if there is one, is that the radical tradition in American life has been rendered invisible. Just as the history of labor and unions and strikes has been erased. There are plenty of great artists out there, actually. Tons of intellectuals, but they aren’t invited by corporate media. Was anyone from Black Agenda Report asked to comment? Or from, well, CounterPunch? Was Harry Belefonte asked? The manufacturing of an image of a culture, rather than an actual culture, is what organs of disinformation such as The Guardian are in the business of doing. And this is also what Hollywood does, of course. Look at the stuff that gets on in the flagship theatres of the U.S. What is the season at Lincoln Center? Does it matter? No, it really doesn’t. And running across all of this discussion is the question of class. In fact, that may be the most important aspect in all of this. The working class voice is erased. In total. And this is hugely significant. Even fifty years ago the stages of American theatres were filled by work from playwrights who did not have MFAs. Novels were written by criminals and outsiders. This is no less true, really, in the U.K. From Brendan Behan to Martin Amis is the road travelled. Now of course one can site exceptions to this, I think anyway. There are always celebrity outsiders, branded renegades. Usually this takes the form of a confessional. My time on oxycodone while writing Sit Coms. I was a teenage prostitute and was addicted to anti depressants, but then I found a higher power. But god forbid you express condemnation of the bourgeoisie. For that is the greatest of all crimes.

    When I worked in Hollywood, I felt the class estrangement acutely. But I did get work and had some modest success. And I remember when a major cable producer of the era asked me, during a pitch meeting, for the names of writers I thought would be good to employ for an anthology series they wanted to put together. I said, well, Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck) and John Rechy. A silence fell on the room. I was very very naive. Hollywood today seems infested with lawyers, former political interns, and business school graduates. Most from Ivy league schools. And the world that is manufactured is one that reflects their class. And the effect this has had is to alienate the younger artists who do not come from affluent backgrounds. It has also normalized the a vision of the world that belongs to perhaps ten per cent of the population. The rest are strangers in their own land. Strangers to the official sanctioned culture. And in that sense, Hollywood has sort of merged with Madison Avenue.

    The class divide is being starkly revealed this last few months. And it has also served to put in stark relief the real impetus of U.S. foreign policy (and to domestic policy, too, only not as drastically). After WW2 and the formation of the CIA, the shaping of a political intention was being finalized. This came from George Kennan and the Dulles Brothers. And Henry Kissinger was the premier exemplar of this thinking. Kissinger, who supported the Shah and his death squads in Iran, and chaired the Presidential Commission on Central America in the 1980s,(employing Ollie North) and which unleashed an unimaginable terror on that region, and who orchestrated the Pinochet coup in Chile to protect ITT and, as a side bar, to teach a lesson to any government not readily obedient. This has been the seamless and never changing foreign policy of the U.S. for seventy some years. Punish the disobedient (meaning anything smacking of socialism or any nation even the tiniest bit resistant to Western business) and to continue toward global hegemony, and at the same time perpetuating conflicts which make both defense contractors and giant service providers such as Halliburton a lot of money.

    The U.S. has cultivated compliant nations (Australia, the U.K. most notably) to enforce its policy (think East Timor, Iraq and Libya et al) and now owns a complient organization with international standing: NATO. And NATO serves as a legitimizing international (sic) institution of pacification.

    John Pilger writes…

    “The other day, an Indonesian friend took me to his primary school where, in October 1965, his teacher was beaten to death, suspected of being a communist.
The murder was typical of the slaughter of more than a million people: teachers, students, civil servants, peasants. Described by the CIA as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”, it brought to power the dictator Suharto, the west’s man. Within a year of the bloodbath, Indonesia’s economy was redesigned in America, giving western capital access to vast mineral wealth, markets and cheap labour. “

    Stephan Gowans writes…

    “The United States had waged a long war against Syria from the very moment the country’s fiercely independent Arab nationalist movement came to power in 1963. Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad were committed to that movement. Washington sought to purge Arab nationalist influence from the Syrian state and the Arab world more broadly. It was a threat to Washington’s agenda of establishing global primacy and promoting business-friendly investment climates for US banks, investors and corporations throughout the world.”

    The rise of the neo cons, which rather officially began with Project for a New American Century (just prior to Bush Jr’s presidency) was really just an extension of that original plan for global domination. At that time this was articulated by a seething nearly hysterical hatred of the Soviet Union. And the structural aspect of this remains in place with today’s rabid and massive propaganda campaign directed at Putin. And indeed even on the left one hears the echoes of a Russophobic sensibility. It is as if these faux leftists can not allow a critique of U.S. imperialism (in Syria for example) without off handedly smearing Russia, too. One need only look at who is surrounding whom with military bases. And the same holds true, with slightly less hysteria, for China.

    In 2012 Ed Herman, speaking in a radio interview, said

    “…humanitarian intervention {has} been used strictly for the interests of the United States and other Western powers and Israel. Strictly. So there’s no intervention in Saudi Arabia or Israel or Yemen or Bahrain. There was none in Egypt…And there was Egypt, here you had a miserable dictator for decades, and then you had an uprising where a lot of people were being beaten and killed in the streets, and you never had Mrs. Clinton ever asking for any application of humanitarian intervention. Not once. Never. They’re getting away with the most unbelievable double standard imaginable.”

    This is, none of it, new. And yet, despite the obvious record of Obama in furthering exactly this world vision, the liberal organs of *real* news continue to paint their revisionist narratives of American heroism and goodness. And it is breathtaking in a way to read this new class of quisling artist, the court eunuchs for the Democratic Party establishment. And Obama’s apparent anger and petulance belies, certainly, descriptions such as ‘preternaturally calm’, and ‘dignified’. But there is a thread of liberal guilt running through this as well. Obama’s race (and his perfect wife and kids — and one longs for Ron Reagan Jr or to go back to James Madison’s son John, and shit, even the Bush girls might be a relief from these Stepford children.) is the psychological glue for a visibly excessive adoration. And this is a white liberal class that is haunted, I suspect, in their heart of hearts, by the knowledge of their own privilege and that that privilege has resulted in oceans of blood, and the knowledge, if they were ever to question themselves, that they would sell out anyone to retain that privilege. They love Obama and Obama is black, therefore…etc.

    As Ajamu Baraka noted

    “In the face of the Neo-McCarthyism represented by this legislation and the many other repressive moves of the Obama administration to curtail speech and control information — from the increased surveillance of the public to the use of the espionage act to prosecute journalists and whistleblowers — one would reasonably assume that forces on the left would vigorously oppose the normalization of authoritarianism, especially in this period of heightened concerns about neo-fascism.
Unfortunately, the petit-bourgeois “latte left” along with their liberal allies have been in full collaboration with the state for the past eight years, with the predictable result that no such alarm was issued, nor has any critique or even debate been forthcoming.”

    The openly Imperialist U.S. state has tortured, illegally kidnapped, and simply murdered both leaders of sovereign states as well as countless innocent victims. That Samantha Power’s motorcade in rushing through a village in Cameroon happened to run over a ten year old boy, and didn’t stop — this barely made the evening news at all (but hey, they did send the family fifteen hundred dollars by way of an apology). They have acted covertly to destabilize governments and have manufactured enemies at a rate that is staggering to contemplate. Obama’s tight relationship with the most odious autocratic and murderous country on earth, Saudi Arabia, speaks to the cynicism of the political elite.

    And yet, the artistic communities by and large continue to focus on identity issues (once they have attended to their career moves and spoken with their agents), most of which affect their own class. The dire suffering of the poor makes good voyeuristic source material, but the segregation of classes is enforced zealously. Token exceptions are simply that.

    How is it possible to become so alarmed by Trump, while supporting Democrats? Those millions on the street protesting the looming invasion of Iraq must have noticed that every single Democrat in government voted FOR the invasion (save for the honorable Barbara Lee). And yet here they all are wringing their hands in dismay that Hillary lost. Here they are constantly repeating the litanies of Trump evil and never noticing the crimes of earlier democratic presidents and administrations. So, yes Trump’s appointments are awful. But I refuse to even dig into that until a discussion of Obama’s appointments are dissected. First came Rahm Emanuel, former memeber of the IDF, all around thug and bully and lover of never ending war to help expand Israeli power. Penny Pritzker, heiress and elitist and friend to the 1%, or Robert Rubin or Tim Geithner (!!!) or Tom Daschle, the senator from Citibank. I’m just scratching the surface. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. The point is that I am coming to feel that almost any focus on Trump feels misplaced. Certainly now it does since he isn’t even president yet. The deconstruction of liberal Obama is far from complete and the propaganda apparatus is working overtime to rewrite not just recent history, but the present. And the anti Russian propaganda is so absurd, so transparent, that this feels far more important than the predictable stupidity of Trump. I mean Obama is massing troops near the Russian border. Obama is ramping up the building of purpose built navel bases near China. Obama is still looking to prosecute Chelsea Manning and every other whistleblower. And he is still signing draconian legislation to curb free speech and institutionalize legitimacy for the new McCarthyism. Talking about Trump is a form of forgetting. I can’t do it. And if there is an easier target for parody or even non parodic narrative than Donald Trump, I havent met them. And easy is never an act of rigorous self examination.

    Thomas Bates writes, discussing Gramsci…

    “Gramsci retained a skepticism towards these alienated fils de bourgeois, a
skepticism which was not, however, mere prejudice, but was an historical
judgment informed by the experience of the Italian labor movement. How was
one to explain the passing of entire groups of left-wing intellectuals into the
enemy camp? More precisely, how was one to explain the phenomena of socialists
entering into bourgeois governments and of revolutionary syndicalists
entering into the nationalist and then the Fascist movement? Gramsci viewed
these puzzling events as the continuation on a mass scale of the ‘trasformismo’
of the nineteenth century. The “generation gap” within the ruling class had resulted
in a large influx of bourgeois youth into the popular movements, especially
during the turbulent decade of the 1890’s. But in the war-induced crisis
of the Italian State in the early twentieth century, these prodigal children
returned to the fold…”

    And Gramsci adds..

    “The bourgeoisie fails to educate its youth (struggle of generations). The youth
allow themselves to be culturally attracted by the workers, and right away
they … try to take control of them (in their “unconscious” desire to impose
the hegemony of their own class on the people), but during historical crises
they return to the fold.”

    White affluent self identifying liberals believe they are the decision makers. That is their destiny. They believe that. One must build a new culture. Not endlessly ratify a decrepit and atrophying one. One must stop perceiving *liberals* as being on the side of change. For they are not. Guy Debord began his situationist masterpiece (1967) by quoting Feuerbach, Preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity:

    “But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence… illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness. “

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/09/future-crimes/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  14. #54
    A few excerpts from ' Exterminationist Game

    So, again, *origin*. And in the U.S. today the danger is not in what Don Trump has to offer (which is bad enough) but in this release of bourgeois self loathing and fear. For the anti Trumpism of the liberal bourgeoisie is far more fascistic than Trump’s cartoon authoritarianism. That Trump could even become president is proof of the growth of a shadow culture, of reserves of latent untapped rage and racialist mania. When Adorno wrote in the 50s of a *half Bildung* … a sort of half education…he stressed that such energies can only exist in opposition to a dominant system that serves as a repressing force. In this sense Trump was a necessary invention for the built up rage and hysteria of the white bourgeoisie in the U.S. Without Trump, as it was under Obama, the affluent gatekeepers of culture and the managerial class were increasingly stultified in their expression. The system could barely manufacture, in cultural terms, good comic books. If the idea of an *artificial negativity* has any merit, it will reveal itself in the coming years as a by-product of the simple minded expressions of narcissistic rage from the liberal class. A by product that will represent the death of culture itself.

    ****************************

    The mass regression of today’s culture is of course assisted by what Buzby calls a habituation to domination. And one form of this habituation is the insistence on clear one dimensional meanings and *proofs*. It is no wonder that SNOPES is now employed by facebook to curate (per Obama) disputed content. Whatever that might mean. The very idea that disputing content is presented as de facto bad tells one everything. Absolute certainty is then comforting. True or false. And all argument is dismissed because everything must be totally true, or totally false. And Buzby notes that guilt plays a huge role in this demand for certainty. For everyone is guilty in their own private court of law. It is hard, when thinking on all this, not to be reminded of Dostoyevsky, yet again. The inability to work through one’s guilt will derail all attempts to accept even the idea of social change. Again, the current hysteria surrounding the election of Trump feels very much like a projection of guilt. It is also partly an aspect of scapegoating. I have read repeatedly on social media the various complaints about Trump and symbolic reactions — everything from burning L.L. Bean flannel shirts (I guess because Linda Bean was a supporter) to the Rockettes refusing to perform at the inauguration — it is the symbolism of distraction and a society of trivia. It is also a white guilt, and it is part of a shadow culture that is reaching a terminal state. For culture, art and expression of any kind, is complicit with social guilt.

    ***********************

    There is also a rising sense of imaginary solidarity among the anti Trump groups. All the meanness and shaming directed at this new President, and unsurprisingly his wife, is not only permitted, it is enjoyed.


    Valerie Hegarty

    The mass anger directed at Trump is a part of a national narrative of white supremacy. As paradoxical as that perhaps sounds, I believe its rather obviously true. That Trump is a racist is utterly beside the point. The overt hood figure of the Klan is but one artery of a white supremacist hierarchical social infrastructure that continues to reproduce the basic slave owning plantation system that emerged out of the 17th century. When I read various Trump protests I am reminded of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who protested the slave owning plantation system of sugar growers in the Caribbean by not sweetening her coffee or tea.

    This narrative is one in which tens of millions of brown and black people perish at the hands of white Europeans and North Americans without ever a collective outcry or gesture of collective remorse. Not a peep. Silence. For this is another aspect of this psychic movement toward silence. The shadow culture cannot read, and cannot almost not speak. It tweets and texts. The totalizing aggression of the collective (per Buzby) is unchecked by individuation. The culture of individuality is completely without it. And without any access to Dionysian erotic release there is only the death instinct. And advanced Capitalism has reached a point in this grand narrative where the self-promoted exceptional American has an ego so weak that he or she cannot cry out. Hence the increasing anger at those who do cry out. The poor, the criminals, the marginalized — these cries incite anger in the bourgeoisie who want EVERYONE to join them in condemning the wrong neo fascist in the White House. Or in hating Putin, or whoever is being sold by media today as evil. The poor are blamed for not following instructions on hatred. The role of guilt has changed, however, to the degree that early submission to parental punishment is now delayed or mediated in various ways. Therefore the therapeutic age today has adult children still ambivalent about authority to some degree, or rather ‘more’ ambivalent, and who look toward improving themselves in one or another form of therapy. This self is examined as if its a DIY TV show. The guilt of Trump, which is glaringly apparent, allows for feelings of virtue in those who protest him. The also obvious crimes of Obama and Clinton allowed for no such feelings of virtue. But it DID allow for a more easily buried sense of guilt in those who voted for them.

    http://john-steppling.com/2017/01/ex...ationist-game/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  15. #55
    Civic Death
    JANUARY 29, 2017


    Daido Moriyama, photography.

    “The view only changes for the lead dog.”
    Norman O. Brown

    “The more I looked at fractal patterns, the more I was reminded of Pollock’s poured paintings. And when I looked at his paintings, I noticed that the paint splatters seemed to spread across his canvases like the flow of electricity through our devices.”
    Richard Taylor

    “A role is not a role. It is social life, an inherent part of it. What is faked in one sense IS what IS the essential, the most precious, the human, in another and what is most derisory is what is most necessary. It is often difficult to distinguish between what is faked and what is natural, not to say naive (and we should distinguish between a natural naivety and the naturalness which is a product of high culture).”
    Henri Lefebvre

    John Berger writing of the painting in the Chauvet Caves;
    “Their space has absolutely nothing in common with that of a stage. When experts pretend that they can see here ‘the beginnings of perspective’, they are falling into a deep, anachronistic trap. Pictorial systems of perspective are architectural and urban – depending upon the window and the door. Nomadic ‘perspective’ is about coexistence, not about distance.”

    I have been thinking a lot about cities, today, in both Europe, and in North America. Perhaps because I rarely go to the city anymore. One thing is noise. The silence of the world as it must have existed for those anonymous painters of the Chauvet caves is very rare today (well, THAT silence is gone), if not impossible to find, even in the most remote parts of the world. Where I live there are few people. It is farming country, mostly. I hear tractors often, and a few automobiles or trucks. Rarely do I encounter actual traffic however. In winter, now, I hear the ice. I hear the winter sounds. The constant low level struggle of the fjord and the ice. Norway is one the most sparsely populated countries in Europe (only Iceland has a lower population density) so I have become accustomed to far less talk than when living in the U.S. Talk tires me out, now. When I teach I am exhausted afterwards. And the modern idea of city is one that necessitates a good deal of talking.


    Gerrit Dou (1631). Detail.

    Increasingly leisure has become more aggressive and violent. The play has gone out of play, replaced by substitute forms of domination. Leisure is treated as a training exercise for domination. In the U.S. today there is less actual leisure time and that which exists is ever more the development of skills that serve to reinforce hierarchical systems of subjugation.

    Obsolete skills are repurposed as entertainment. And within such repurposing there is a partially hidden layer of self domination. The plethora of reality TV often focuses on tests of mock courage and survival techniques, of returns to some fantasy past that is part nostalgia and part self abasement. Except it’s a sort of mock self abasement that is then, by virtue of its counterfeitness, all the more self abasing. The privileged 1% today, and their minions and clerks, put poverty to use as a propaganda tool to demonstrate the need to cleanse the squalor produced by lesser people. Except again, the filty poor are also fetishized and eroticized for service in psychological and social/erotic bantustans of leisure. And this is almost no longer propaganda, for the ruling elite make little effort to hide their sense of superiority. And the clerk class, the managers aspire to a proximity to the segregated pavillions of wealth. No longer do this class even dream of actual elite wealth, they are content to not be intwined with the poor and their *ugliness* even if it means bowing and scraping before those with wealth, and never uttering any expression of dissent.


    Jannis Kounellis

    “Within every class-based society the constraints that one class imposes upon another are always a part of the inhuman power which reigns over everything. On that level, the individual sees himself ‘divested of his real individual life and filled with unreal universality’.”
    Henri Lefebvre

    The liberal managerial class, the white collar professionals, those who own a condo, maybe, but live in the major urban centers of the U.S.; these are people for whom the American dream is just access not to privilege per se (except relatively speaking) but to the privileged. It is amazing how readily these clerks and stenographers will express their respect. The rich are referred to as *Mister* or *Misses*, or sir or whatever. The proles are hey you, or Jake, or Tom, that guy. This is the self loathing of the liberal class and the necessary hatred of the poor.


    Lauren Marsolier, photography and construct.

    You will hear pro athletes, black and white and other, all refer to owners of pro teams as Mister so and so. Never ever does Dan Snyder get called *Dan*.– its always Mister Snyder. Mr Bennet, Mr Angelos, Mr Steinbrenner etc.

    But back to this idea of Nature and its relationship to alienation. For this is something that infects architecture certainly. But the manufacture of alienation is built into ideas of pleasure, as well. And to sexuality. And part of the multiple levels or layers of identification that surround political figures and celebrities, is both a critical factor in this, but also its effect.

    “A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature”.
    Ezra Pound


    Hilda Doolittle

    Somewhere Robert Duncan noted that even though we know astrology is junk, it still reveals something about the typology of character. But when Duncan said this writers and artists imagined that creativity was a province outside of science. For Duncan, or Olson, or even Lowell, science was a useful resource for their writing, but not insofar as it WAS science. The imagination was cosmic. And even if one looks to Soviet writers, to Japanese or Mexican — this was always the case (its strange in fact how so much of the communist left abandoned art as something of importance, if they did not not develop outright hostility to it. And those who do love art, and appreciate it, tend to keep this fact rather private). For the right, hostility to art is mixed in with misogyny and a general xenophobic mind set that also embraces an extremely regressive idea of masculinity. It was sissy stuff, and it was somehow anti business. And one of the things that happened over sixty or seventy years to Western art, at least lets say literature, was the mistaking of effect for the experience. In other words, to quote Duncan again; “When we first come into the attraction of words in poetry, it is the craft of the net, the novelty of usage, the knot effect, often, that strikes us. We mistake the effect for the art…” Of course there were other things going on, and perhaps even more noticable or even significant things. But these other things were about perception, and the rise of a new ruthless super ego as well as the general loss of curiosity and attention (of a certain sort).


    Wolf Kahn

    And this is important I think. The effect. The writer or painter achieves an effect, often of novelty (there is no more pernicious trend in arts than valorising novelty or, put another way, originality). Much of the best of Asian aesthetics has to do with erasing effect, not emphasising it. And to return to Pollock for a moment; the effect of Pollock (and Rothko, and even Kline) is minimal. For when I think of effect, I think more of that which adheres to message. The message always has its effect. Norman Rockwell has an effect, and in his case the effect and the message are pretty superficial. The message and effect of Hopper is greater, but Hopper is great because he subverts his own effect. It is the mysterious uncanny memories evoked in Hopper. The philistine will write that Hopper is about (pick adjective) loneliness, say. But this is like saying Tolstoy was a great writer of war scenes. Or that Pinter had a great *ear*. The appeal of the bourgeois critic is always to something everyday, a certain kind of everyday. The parochial everyday. It imparts the message that one’s boredom has value and importance. It does not say boredom is the by product of a system of exploitive labor and repetition. It is the generalizing view that extracts banality and praises it against a backdrop of ahistorical sameness.


    Kenneth Noland

    But this becomes semantic in a sense. And it begs the defining of *affect*. But what Duncan really meant was that the real poem was there beneath the poem that got everyone’s attention. Its like pre click bait click bait. Originality or novelty or innovation in the arts is equivalent to click bait in internet marketing. But in a way this is a logical progression from the shifts away from Nature as a subject for art, and toward man as the ultimate subject. All the way back to the 1930s Adolph Loos wrote that “the purpose of art is to take man further and further, higher and higher, to make him more like God.” In poetry, when Bly began critical writing in his own quarterly(ish) The Fifties, he was criticizing poets he liked, but who he saw as awful influences (Auden, Eliot, and even Milton). Though he reserved his deepest scorn for academic poets. He specifically noted the turn from, say, Spanish surrealists (Neruda is always embedded in Nature, as is Lorca and Vallejo), or Sufi poets of ecstasy, or Basho …and toward the dry intellectual studies of human behaviour ( Drydan, Marvell, Ben Jonson, through to Hopkins and Clare and even Browning). In the U.S., if we speak in broad strokes, there was Whitman and Crane, perhaps above everyone else (and the Frost branch and the Cummings branch as borderline kitsch). And for all his ostentatious outpouring about Nature, I’d not consider Whitman a poet *of* nature. And many of these borderline branches became entwined by mid century. And they entwined at the University and its English departments. Lowell and Berryman, and Plath and ending with John Ashbery, I suppose. But something happened in a sense by the sixties, and its the same thing that happened to other art forms. And that is that too many people were making a career or art and career poets must teach to have a career. How many great poets are alive today? In english lets say. I’d say none. But I am very picky about poetry (I blame Ork for this). Bly is a great teacher and a very good poet. Not a great poet. A great translator, however. James Wright was close IMHO. Wallace Stevens and Theodor Roethke were both great and marked the last stage of modernism. But I don’t want to make lists here. Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid is a narrative poem of sorts. Its outstanding on many levels. But it is an expression, among other things, of the impossibility of writing as Dante once wrote, or Shakespeare, or Donne. Nor is it possible to write as Goethe did.


    Yutaka Takanashi, photography.


    Ondaatje is, in a sense, expressing something deeply nihilistic. The end of literacy. There will be post literacy literacy. Maybe there already is, and maybe that is why so few people even looked up from texting to roll their eyes when Dylan won the nobel prize. Now, the complexity of a certain kind of cultural death is possible to exhaust in any meaningful way here. But I hope I’ve been writing about it for the entirety of this blog’s life. But the point is that this shift toward man as an alienated being really took hold in the late 19th century, I think. The fuller version was the product of post WW2 U.S. culture as it was being manufactured on the spot.
    The idea of this loss of Nature needs to be seen as a Western invention, if that’s what it is (or really it is the product of late Capitalism). And it is intriguing to sort of sample various side bar writing on the subject of nature’s intersection with the contemporary psyche as it is expressed in art.

    “In“Anal-Erotic Character Traits” (1918), Jones locates a “primitive smearing impulse”
    as the basis of all “molding and manipulating,” “painting and printing.”
    And in “The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money” (1914) Ferenczi sketches a
    phylogenetic development of “copro-symbols”—whereby the child plays with
    excrement, then mud, sand, and pebbles in a sequence of ever more pure materials…”

    Hal Foster


    Morris Louis

    Richard Taylor wrote a sort of interesting if not terribly rigorous piece on fractals and Jackson Pollock..
    http://oregonquarterly.com/the-curse...st-art-scandal

    But this does touch on something significant about experience and art. And it brings me back to Berger. I think a lot of people are re-reading Berger now, after his recent death. And this can only be a good thing.

    “In the 18th century, long-term imprisonment was approvingly defined as a punishment of”civic death”. Three centuries later, governments are imposing – by law, force, economic threats and their buzz – mass regimes of civic death.”
    John Berger


    Wesley Willis

    Civic death includes the eradication of silence, too. While at the same time eliminating Nature. They go hand in hand. Of course the death driven morbidity of advanced Capitalist nations is trending toward a kind of silence, but it is the silence of stasis, of death and decay.

    “One has only to think of the poems of Chaucer, Villon, Dante; in all of them Death, whom nobody can escape, is the surrogate for a generalized sense of uncertainty and menace in face of the future.
    Modern history begins—at different moments in different places—with the principle of progress as both the aim and motor of history. This principle was born with the bourgeoisie as an ascendant class, and has been taken over by all modern theories of revolution. The twentieth-century struggle between capitalism and socialism is, at an ideological level, a fight about the content of progress. Today within the developed world the initiative of this struggle lies, at least temporarily, in the hands of capitalism which argues that socialism produces backwardness. In the underdeveloped world the “progress” of capitalism is discredited.”

    John Berger


    Adriaen van Ostade. (Lawyer in his Study, 1637).

    Capitalism is the perfected distillation of all systems linked to *progress*. And the cultures of progress imply what Berger saw as point of view of expansion. Pre-industrial cultures were cyclical, and for peasants were focused on survival. But today expansion is being retrofitted for a *green* rebranding, and this is really the origin of this fixation on novelty and innovation. Innovation is not necessarily the engine of economic development, but it is the idea that serves as caretaker for the endless actual failures of economic development under capital. There not being, really, any free market the reaction was to find symbolic mechanisms to veil this fact. Airlines can’t survive without subsidies, but to talk about this means discussing all the ways Marx was right. Instead it is better to just write about innovative low cost airlines, or new luxury jumbo jets flying to high end resort destinations. In a sense this is just marketing. But on a wider societal level it is also *how* the world is seen.

    The literal scope of the gaze looks forward expansively, while the survivalist culture narrows. Bentham invented the early panopticon control (Berger calls it accountancy in ethics) and this was followed on by schools, hospitals and factories. If the transition of peasant culture to the bourgeois societies of the West were best chronicled by the Dutch and Belgian painters of the 16th century — per Berger– it is intriguing to see Hals, or a Van Ostade as either the R. Crumbs of their age or the Oprahs. Van Ostade never seemed to tire of tavern settings, but perhaps these are the paintings of the society of non alienation, or non HYPER alienation. Dickens later chronicled the idea of meetings at the way station, the tavern or inn, too. This was the setting of allegorical fatalism. The road travelled by coach, the inn, the escape from the urban civic duties — for the bourgeoisie. Chance encounters. The uncanny stranger. By the 20th century travel was commodified and made into leisure. Escape was symbolic escape from work that imitated work. By the 21st century leisure imitated conquest and sadism, since there was really no work.


    Shomei Tomatsu, photography.

    The road of the 16th century through the early 19th was still a road without presumptions about progress. The industrial revolution set forth the new alienation (Haussman rebuilds Paris), and optical discoveries shift primacy to the eye, to details one cant see without optical instruments. Experts are born. The new priests of expertise on ‘techne’. But the self narration of our lives shifted when there was no longer an escape from commodified movement, and the greater digital panopticon. The loss of nature to the primacy of man that took place in poetry was seen in literature as well. Part of the psychological disintegration of the second half of the 20th century is connected to the loss of *place*, the sense of traditional custom, of a human scale in the face of Nature and of history. Kafka certainly wrote with a preternatural and prophetic insight about the coming insect age of the giant panopticon — the loss of silence is also, obviously,the loss of contemplative access.

    The Utopian vision of 20th century architects was constantly failing, even in its most noble exercises. Brasilia was the gaze sent forward toward a widening future. But the progress imagined was cold and desolate and unnatural.


    Palácio do Congresso Nacional. Brasília, 1960. Marcel Gautherot, photography.. Oscar Niemayer, architect.

    The anal universe, for Freud (and Norman O. Brown and Marcuse) is the place before not only progress but sociability — it is the realm without limits. I can never look at Trump (who had gold curtains installed at the White House replacing Obama’s blood red choice) without thinking of his anality. That ‘golden showers’ became a meme is hardly surprising. But neither is it surprising that the U.S. ended up with Trump. His pseudo Versailles/Vegas taste is more revealing than his nativist rhetoric. And that both he and Berlusconi took to industrial level tanning sessions is plain disturbing. They exclaim, behold, it is my face of shit.

    “…excrement is the most charged of symbols, a wild sign that the infant might take as a penis, a baby, a gift, money, and so on, all terms that are “ill-distinguished” and “interchangeable” in the anal zone. The anal-excremental, then, seems to oscillate between the physically literal and inert and the symbolically arbitrary and
    volatile—a difficult oscillation psychologically. Moreover, in either register the anal zone suggests an indistinction that is also difficult to bear.”

    Hal Foster

    But I digress (slightly).


    Louise Nevelson

    [img]"Consciousness reflects and does not reflect: what it
    reflects is not what it seems to reflect, but something else, and that is what
    analysis must disclose. Precisely because the activity that produced
    ideologies was exceptional and specialized, they came out of social
    practice – of everyday life – in two senses: it produced them and they
    escaped from it, thus acquiring in the process an illusory meaning other
    than their real content.” [/img]
    Henri Lefebvre

    Contemporary society has now begun to function as if there are no hidden layers to anything. Solutions are meant to be seen as total. Side effects are no threat to their completeness. As I’ve argued before, Abstract Expressionism was the last sincere expression of cosmic reach. The last Dionysian engagement. And hence it is the most acutely attacked. It is attacked from both right and left. From the right it is snickered at (Oh shit, give me a roller and some canvas and I’ll turn out a dozen Rothkos in one day) and from the left (Oh the CIA wanted to steer people away from real revolutionary art…meaning realism and mural painting etc). And since everyone is under the gaze of the Panopticon, nobody escapes.


    Patrick Joust, photography.

    “There is in the height of my fantasy, not an obcession but a thought that persists,
    a fancy that psychoanalysis has found entertained by many children, of an other more
    real mother than my mother.”

    Robert Duncan

    See Mere Virtual Presence (h/t J.L.)
    (http://server2.docfoc.us/uploads/Z20...bc16dcc5c3.pdf)

    The novel today only exists in any relevance in crime fiction. Intentionally minor and transient, there one can at least fine some kind of discovery. Ideas are avoided in much contemporary fiction and this is because ideas are avoided in the individuals own self narration. The journey has gone from Man before Nature, to Man as the only fit subject for study, to Subjectivity before an invented Nature (or generic mass produced Nature). The bourgeois educated class in the U.S. is acutely unaware of the rest of the world as a living collective of experiences. They operate within a vision that is no longer exactly about progress. It is no longer a gaze directed at that widening road ahead but rather a gaze directed at a screen with an image of a widening road.

    “The visual arts have always existed within a certain preserve; originally this preserve was magical or sacred. But it was also physical: it was the place, the cave, the building, in which, or for which, the work was made. The experience of art, which at first was the experience of ritual, was set apart from the rest of life – precisely in order to be able to exercise power over it. Later the preserve of art became a social one. It entered the culture of the ruling class, whilst physically it was set apart and isolated in their palaces and houses. During all this history the authority of art was inseparable from the particular authority of the preserve.
    What the modern means of reproduction have done is to destroy the authority of art and to remove it – or, rather, to remove its images which they reproduce – from any preserve. For the first time ever, images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free. They surround us in the same way as a language surrounds us. They have entered the mainstream of life over which they no longer, in themselves, have power.”

    John Berger


    Samantha French

    The culture that today has normalized torture, while simultaneously inventing a history in which *we* don’t torture is the perfect example of this new empty self narrative. And of civic death. When Manadel Al-Jamadi died in custody and later had his body photographed on ice, battered and bruised, the description of his interrogator was ‘shabbily dressed overweight white man’. A CIA operative, but not a covert one. Al-Jamadi was alive, hooded, but walking under his power and coherent and answering questions when he entered the interrogation tier at Abu Ghraib. When he was untied (after being hung up, his hands tied behind his back) blood gushed from his mouth as if a faucet had been turned on. That was the description of witnesses. This murder is just one of many, but one that came to public attention. Except it didn’t really come to attention. Hollywood does not cast CIA ops with overweight unkempt white actors. The official narrative is one seen on screens. And the backdrop is artificial and manufactured.

    This is all rather obvious. So the artists who painted animals on those cave walls were directly transcribing something of a Nature that surrounded them, and with relatively few filters. They did not gaze with the eyes of progress.


    Balthus

    Berger again…from Ways of Seeing, written in 1972:
    “Publicity, situated in a future continually deferred, excludes the present and so eliminates all becoming, all development. Experience is impossible within it. All that happens, happens outside it.”

    The paradox is that what happens, in art, does happen outside it. What is true, though, is that one can no longer experience it within the cultural panopticon.
    The anal sadistic character of fascism was exhaustively explored by Pasolini and Genet, and a dozen others, and it is increasingly apparent in contemporary America. And in this sense Obama and Trump are flip sides of this same coin.

    Steve Shaviro (oddly perhaps) wrote a nice short piece on Norman O. Brown a while back…
    “The very idea of sublimation — moving from something “lower” to something “higher” — involves stunting the potentialities of the body, and setting up a hierarchy between mind and body, or even a total Cartesian separation of mind from body. For Brown, a radical desublimation is the only way to go: a return to the wisdom of the polymorphously perverse body, a rejection of goal-oriented culture in favor of living in the moment; an acceptance of death as part of life, instead of our dread of death which ironically turns life itself into a living death.”

    The living death of the U.S. is found not only in super max prisons, or in a political class of zombie humans, from both parties..but it is found in the sexually desperate frat boy culture of VICE or the saccharine near autistic fairy tales from Hollywood…most of which are so depressing that the mind shuts down. Reading Norman O. Brown today, or Ernest Becker or Marcuse’s book on Freud, is to see that even they were under the spell of disenchantment. For them the polymorphously perverse body is still sort of imagined in a genital conception. It is still a bit too much like a Hefner playboy mansion orgy but with incense and taking place in a muddy field. Marcuse said, later, that we cannot imagine what a non repressed society would look like. And this is the truth of it. The desublimated self is probably closer to something like the silence of the desert, a coptic underground temple no longer in use, a cave perhaps.


    Gary Fabian Miller

    The contemporary culture of entertainment is not interested in those trompe l’oeil effects so popular with the producers of niche paintings in the mid 1600s. The birth of bourgeois collectibles, and patrons found something important in being momentarily fooled by an illusionist trick. Perhaps the best of those practioners was Gerrit Dou, a painter I find oddly but completely fascinating. And convincing. His later works in particular betray his early training in glass engraving and stained glass (his father manufactured stained glass) and then his apprenticeship with Rembrandt. And Rembrandt did not suffer the less talented. Dou’s portraits consistently teeter on illusion, as did all the Dutch *fine* painters of those decades. These were popular paintings, and bought by visitors to Holland, including royalty. Dou was in a sense the J.J. Abrams of early bourgeois society (European anyway). The difference is that Abrams and Hollywood overall today are not in the business of skillful illusion (by itself not an indictment) but rather are in the business of representing an illusion — and an obscuring of reality, not representing by way of an illusion a reflection of reality. Or…Dou was the early version of Thomas Kinkade. Take your pick. There is something in these (probably bogus) comparisons that touches on the general loss of a discriminating eye, and an ability to seek more. To soberly evaluate the emptiness of every gesture. The overriding dissatisfaction with one’s role.

    “And in life itself, in everyday life, ancient gestures, rituals as old as
    time itself, continue unchanged – except for the fact that this life has
    been stripped of its beauty. Only the dust of words remains, dead
    gestures. Because rituals and feelings, prayers and magic spells,
    blessings, curses, have been detached from life, they have become
    abstract and ‘inner’, to use the terminology of self-justification.
    Convictions have become weaker, sacrifices shallower, less intense.
    People cope -badly- with a smaller outlay. Pleasures have become
    weaker and weaker. The only thing that has not diminished is the old
    disquiet, that feeling of weakness, that foreboding. But what was
    formerly a sense of disquiet has become worry, anguish. Religion,
    ethics, metaphysics – these are merely the ‘spiritual’ and ‘inner’
    festivals of human anguish, ways of channelling the black waters of
    anxiety – and towards what abyss? “

    Henri Lefebvre

    The Mysteries Remain

    Hilda Doolittle

    The mysteries remain,
    I keep the same
    cycle of seed-time
    and of sun and rain;
    Demeter in the grass,
    I multiply,
    renew and bless
    Bacchus in the vine;
    I hold the law,
    I keep the mysteries true,
    the first of these
    to name the living, dead;
    I am the wine and bread.
    I keep the law,
    I hold the mysteries true,
    I am the vine,
    the branches, you
    and you.


    http://john-steppling.com/2017/01/civic-death/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  16. #56
    The Violence of Silence
    by JOHN STEPPLING


    Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

    “Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
    Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
    Well, you must tell me, baby
    How your head feels under somethin’ like that.”

    — Dylan

    The age of cognitive dissonance. Sunday, the American public (millions of them) watched the NFL Super Bowl. This spectacle is, of course, rife with all manner of jingoism and military symbolism (as is the game itself). But this is also a game, American football, that has proved to destroy the human brain of those who play it. In fact there was even a Hollywood movie, a popular one, about the doctor who led the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); the brain trauma caused by the collision of man and helmet. Great players such as Mike Webster and Junior Seau died by their own hand; Terry Long drank anti freeze as his brain went into full melt down. Here is a list of NFL players with CTE.

    None of these facts have put much of a dent into the NFL profit sheet. Or the popularity of the pro game. In fact, the dark shadow hanging over this spectacle is that its popularity may well have been enhanced by the facts surrounding the cost of playing. A league that is over 60% black starts to serve as something of a gladiator sacrifice ritual. One with links to the American slave owning past. Never underestimate the deep lacerating and ugly racism of the U.S. public.

    This was the same week that Donald Trump notched his first war crime, though I suspect he was only dimly aware of it (a common attribute, it is becoming clear, for The Donald). An 8 year old girl, the baby sister of a teenage American citizen also killed, a couple years back, by drone. This took place in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. Why, you might ask, is the U.S. killing people (including children) in Yemen? Well, the U.S. is helping the murderous monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Why, you ask again….and the answer is because, well, that’s how foreign policy operates. Why are there 900 U.S. military bases around the globe? I will return to that a bit later.

    This also marked the week where the anti Trump forces (well, the ones funded by various front groups, a good many of them the product of George Soros’ long tentacles) went into hyper drive. One meme I saw was mocking how Trump can’t read. And look, I don’t think he can, either. I think he is borderline functionally illiterate. But so was Ronald Reagan. So was Dan Quayle. Republicans must long for the age of literacy under Bush Jr. What is becoming clear, however, is that Trump has no idea what he is doing. I mean he thinks Frederic Douglas is still out there doing a ‘helluva job’. Trey Parker of South Park confessed he cant find a way to satirize Donald Trump. So he’s giving up for the time being.

    I feel ya. But Trump is now surrounded by nearly equally sub literate advisors. Jerry Fallwell’s kid is now going to helm a task force on education. What this portends is anyone’s guess. But before getting too disturbed, one should remember the actual state of public education in the U.S. under Obama or Bush or Clinton. It was Reagan, again, who pretty much had already destroyed any semblance of a real education for america’s children. Trump cut arts spending, too. Gosh, no NPR? Am I supposed to care? I have to tell you I don’t. I mean the National Endowment for the Arts already had a budget less than the US Marine Corps band. And basically the entire arts infrastructure was monopolized by the white bourgeoisie and had excluded, for a long while, all voices of any radical nature. So I don’t care, really.

    The problem is that with Trump, the message — the optics — the symbolism if you want, is what is so pernicious. The elevation of this rapey buffoon to the Presidency is a culture shock (Trump as a younger man actually liked Roy Cohn!). So I get that shock part. I’m shocked in a sense, too. But the reality is that Trump has no idea what is going on. So who is calling the shots then? Who wanted to bomb a group of people in Yemen and snuff out the life of a beautiful eight year old child? What sort of sociopathic personality does that? The answer is that the corridors of power in the U.S. — the deep state — never really changes its actors. And those actors are sociopaths, in fact. I think that is not hyperbole. Maddie Albright and the famous ‘it was worth it’ reply to the death of millions of Iraqi children suggests I am right.

    The *War on Terror* has not abated since its inception, and really it was only an intensification of already existing U.S. foreign policy. The majority protestors against Trump almost never mention U.S. imperialist wars of aggression. They DO care about further shredding an already pathetic health care system and what will now be an even more egrigious assault on women’s reproductive rights. And that is certainly legitimate. But stepping back just a little would reveal that the war on the poor, on black neighborhoods, and the installing of draconian surveillance systems and a constant ever receding list of civil liberties is a part of this. You cannot separate the attack on women’s rights from the death of that 8 year old girl. Or the vicious coup in Honduras courtesy of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Or the proxy war in Syria. The neo cons in positions of influence have never gone away. They were there before 9/11 and they are there now. Few in those protests have any grasp of the destruction of Yugoslavia. Most still think Milosevic was a war criminal. How many bother to mention U.S. black sites and those military bases around the globe? Do they wonder what goes on in those places? I think such facts only appear in their consciousness when watching a TV show or Hollywood film. And mostly they are perfectly fine with killing Arabs just as they are perfectly fine with mass incarceration and with eroding civil liberties. Do any of them protest the U.S. and especially the Clinton’s, grotesque plunder of Haiti?

    If you love the Super Bowl, then you probably don’t dwell in any depth on the depravity of the U.S. government and its crimes around the world. And I say this because to enjoy the sight of young men turning their brains to mush should not be enjoyable. I say this knowing my own contradictions. I was close to the boxing world for much of my life. I admired the beauty and sacrifice and courage of great fighters. I still do. But I am aware of the problem with this. And if you asked me today I’d say ban all boxing. But I will watch fights again. (there is a side bar discussion to be had about why boxing feels tragic and heroic and MMA feels simply violent). But one needs to examine why young men are still willing to participate in these sports. The obvious answer is that for many of the poorer families in the U.S., the possibility of comparative wealth can come no other way. (And boxing at least rarely displays any jingoism. It is, as someone said, the red light district of sports).

    But Trump is doing and saying pretty much what all presidents before him have done and said in foreign policy terms. Oh, he switched from Russia to China, but eventually he will get to both. So there is a cognitive dissonance to attack Trump but not have attacked Obama. And this is the core problem. The protests are about Trump the man, not his policies. Or rather, not his foreign policy. And really, even his domestic policy really doesn’t stand very far outside what is already mostly in place courtesy of the last six or seven U.S. presidents. They are not anti war protests, not even anti torture. Not anti Imperialism, except in a minority of cases and not anti Capitalist.

    Edward Curtin wrote of the recent protests….

    “At the call of organizers, they were roused from their long liberal naps. Reacting to Trump’s gross comments about “grabbing pussy” – sick words, macho aggressive in their meaning – they donned their pink hats, made signs, and took their newly awakened outrage to the streets. Rightly disgusted by being verbally assaulted and afraid that their reproductive rights and services were threatened, they pounced like tigers on their verbal attacker. Massive, very well organized, media friendly marches and demonstrations followed. It was a hit parade.
Yet as others have forcefully written, something is amiss here. During the Obama years of endless wars, drone killings, the jailing of whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, etc., these demonstrators were silent and off the streets.
A large number of the women (if not the vast majority) who marched against Donald Trump – and the recent women’s marches can only be described as anti-Trump marches – were Hilary Clinton supporters, whether they would describe their votes as “the lesser of two evils” or not. Thus, opposition to Trump’s aggressive statements toward “pussy” was implicit support for Clinton’s and Obama’s “feminism.” In other words, it was support for a man and a woman who didn’t publicly talk aggressively about women’s genitals, but committed misogynist and misandrist actions by killing thousands of women (and men and children) all over the world, and doing it with phallic shaped weapons. Trump will probably follow suit, but that possibility was not the impetus for the marches. The marches centered on Trump’s misogynist, macho language, and his threats to limit women’s access to health services – i.e. family planning and abortion.”

    Trump is the logical culmination of the rightward drift of U.S. liberalism over the last fifty years. He is the sunlamped face of Capital.

    The Democratic Party systematically purged left voices and anything that lent support to communist goals and organizations, worldwide and at home. The fall of the Soviet Union signaled the onslaught of neo-liberalism in hyper drive. Enzo Traverso, the Italian historian, noted the failures of liberalism in assisting the rise of Hitler and National Socialism. And the deeply engrained tendency of the liberal to gravitate toward the fascist right. The liberal bourgeoisie had a dog in the fight for the status quo. Michael Parenti’s cogent article on left anticommunism (from 2014) noted

    “In addition, the overthrow of communism gave the green light to the unbridled exploitative impulses of Western corporate interests. No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, no longer restrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people have won over the years. Now that the free market, in its meanest form, is emerging triumphant in the East, so will it prevail in the West. “Capitalism with a human face” is being replaced by “capitalism in your face.” As Richard Levins put it, “So in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies had held at bay” (Monthly Review, 9/96).”

    From Nicaragua to Yugoslavia, the anti communist hysteria was given credence and legitimacy by the right AND by much of the left. Or, rather, the non communist left. Watching Trump carry on the same policies as Obama, which in turn were carrying out the same policies as Bush Jr and Clinton and Bush Sr, it is remarkable the outrage coming from the liberal classes today. The privatizing of education and the further disempowerment of labor, along with a continuation of mass incarceration are all things that began back in 1989. And the endless search for new markets for Western capital has not halted since Reagan.

    Norman Pollock wrote, here at CP just last week….

    “This raises the question, applicable to Trump and his predecessors (for he cannot be examined in a vacuum), of the connectivity in America of power, wealth, and fascism, possibly from the time of Truman onward, and certainly, from Reagan onward.{ } America is fast crumbling into a boiling cauldron of hate, selfishness, and combativeness, Trump the perfect articulator, implementer, further executioner of capitalism…”

    That Trump is so obviously incurious and ignorant suggests he will turn to others for advice, and likely some not officially within his administration. Ron and Nancy looked to the stars. One obvious voice for the Donald will be Benjamin Netanyahu. The other obvious candidate will be Eric Prince, late of Blackwater and insider pal to Trump and Pence both. And I suspect Pence almost serves as a life insurance policy for Trump. If anyone can be found to be more unstable and deranged than Trump, on a personal level, then it’s Pence. The logic of U.S. thinking on global hegemony, from those myriad think tanks that dot Washington, is one that will dovetail nicely with the fanaticism of a Netanyahu. The Israeli leadership has never had a problem working with anti semite fascists. And Trump is not an anti semite (that would be Steve Bannon, who’s influence may already be waning). In any case the targeting of Iran is directly linked to Israeli interests and the choice of General Mattis was quite possibly already a whispered suggestion.

    It is fitting that the New England Patriots (sic) won the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Coach Belichick both are Trump supporters. It’s the whitest team in the NFL, for what that’s worth (3 white wide receivers! Come on.), and somehow the entire spectacle of Super Sunday was one that suggested U.S. grandiosity and white supremacism.

    I was thinking of Ryszard Kapuściński’s short book on The Shah of Iran (Shah of Shahs)…Reza Pahlavi was a U.S. client and his, Pahlavi’s, secret police, SAVAK, trained by the CIA and lend-out interrogation experts from Fort Benning and The School of The Americas.

    “They would kidnap a man as he walked along the street, blindfold him, and lead him straight into the torture chamber without asking a single question. There they would start in with the whole macabre routine–breaking bones, pulling out fingernails, forcing hands into hot ovens, drilling into the living skull, and scores of other brutalities–in the end, when the victim had gone mad with pain and become a smashed, bloody mass, they would proceed to establish his identity. Name? Address?”

    The CIA invented Pahlavi (Āryāmehr, The Light of the Aryans, the King of Kings) because Mossedegh had the temerity to nationalize the oil industry, and it feels oddly like a future foretold. Trump brings the nouveau riche desire to be a sort of American Shah. The same gold and cherebum, the same kitsch aristocratic trappings — though in Trump’s case these things mask the deep insecurities of the son of a brothel owner and slum lord. Trump is the counterfeit Shah. He embodies something of the crappy taste of all banana republic dictators. It is sort ‘despot cool’ ala Mobutu Sese Seko. Except one thing Trump will never be is cool. Never.

    The entire shift in the ruling financial sector before the election; the shot callers in Wall Street boardrooms and the Pentagon, seemed to have thrown their weight behind Trump. The reasons remain obscure. But I cant shake the feeling Trump never intended to win. In any event, he cant be enjoying this. He is a daily endless 24/7 object of derision and ridicule. His consigliere, Bannon, appears himself a bit shaken. They woke up and suddenly a world beyond their preparation lay before them. Donald doesn’t know there is a country called Yemen. But he signed off bombing them. Didn’t he? Presumably. Trump is the 21st century version of a Shah — the shah of Atlantic City and reality TV, a bone ignorant crude and louche operator who did fourteen seasons of The Apprentice as preparation for this new role. But I suspect Trump sees himself as The Donald of Donalds: and the Art of the Deal as this eras Profiles in Courage — though perhaps not. Former cast members from SNL take time to make fun of him, now. And look, on one level I get it. But these same people continue to fawn over Obama. They voted Hillary. They have only barely little more grasp of Yemeni politics than Trump. They just cover it up more successfully. They know the right desert fork. They went to good schools. And what was once called middle America, or ‘the heartland’ are now the flyover states, and this populace today (what are really just white petty bourgeoisie and not swastika tattooed Klansmen) hates the entitled liberals who make fun of Trump. They are, for the moment, ready to forgive Trump. They don’t like him either, but they hate those making fun of him. For how long they will forgive him is unclear. But for now their hatred of the white liberals who manufactured the master narrative for America and made fun of NASCAR and duck hunting and college football tailgate parties trumps (sic) all else. There is enormous and complex cultural overlap, of course. But the reality is, some people somewhere backed Trump. The Clintons were thrilled he was running. Hell, I suspect the Clintons might have encouraged him to run. For the DNC, the leaked Podesta emails verifies they wanted him or Ted Cruz. Even they couldn’t lose to a Don Trump, so the reasoning had it.

    But they did lose.

    Bannon, remember, once produced a documentary on Reagan (In the Face of Evil) and honed his carny pitchman skills at both Goldman Sachs and Breitbart media. Bannon is the voice of, or at least serves as stand-in, for a shrinking class of American worker who vaguely still dream the American dream. Trump is the latter day Reagan in that sense. The Trump base are really, in their own way, social climbers. And the great miscalculation of the DNC in this election was to wildly underestimate the anger of middle America. The petty bourgeoisie who watched in rapture as Tom Brady orchestrated a historic comeback. A comeback to beat the team of the blackest city in the U.S. (well, the one with a football team anyway); these were people who instinctively rejected all that the Clinton’s stood for. Remember, too, that half the electorate didn’t vote. That is the other lesson in all this.

    John Pilger wrote of the recent protests by quoting firstly journalist Martha Gelhorn (circa 1930s)…

    “A writer,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, “must be a man of action now… A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last.”
Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.”

    Pilger added..

    “According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day. He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.”

    This is what the Democratic Party, all of it, was silent about. Decades of removing communist and socialist and really, even just working class voices from what was supposed to be the party of ‘labor’ has resulted in the silence of bourgeois culture in the face countless global crimes and military aggressions. The age of humanitarian intervention stripped the patina from the deaths head of liberal apologetics. Cognitive dissonance. The complicity in war crimes in Yemen, with and in support of the most odious regime in the world, Saudi Arabia, passes in silence. Total media silence. Total. Hillary Clinton’s comment about deplorables reveals a mind set that sees poverty as something to ignore. One is led to expect such contempt from a Barbara Bush, but Democrats were supposed to different. The imprisonment and murder of radicals, from Fred Hampton to Leonard Peltier is simply not a topic at the Democratic convention. The cynical tolerance of a brutal never ending assault on the global south is not protested.

    So, until protestors begin to find solidarity with those hundreds of thousands of malnourished children in Yemen, or the displaced and suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, or Honduras or Haiti or Gaza, or who pledge solidarity with the two million jailed in the U.S. prison system…then these protests are just as morally bankrupt as the Wall Street ghouls and Christian zealots who are salivating at the opportunity to punish women, the poor, and all people of colour domestically. These things cannot be separated. Ferguson is Port au Prince and is Fallujah and is Tripoli. The violence of such silence really cannot be tolerated anymore. The rights of women matter in central America and the Middle East, too. Trump, the cartoon Shah of TV reality entertainment is just a symptom. Covering up the symptom does not cure the disease. And the disease is Capitalism.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/...ce-of-silence/

    This is very good.
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  17. #57
    Some excerpts from Behind the Nightmare

    Behind The Nightmare
    MARCH 7, 2017 | LEAVE A COMMENT


    Luca Giordano (Fall of Rebel Angels, 1660. Detail)

    “Even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”
    Walter Benjamin

    “Within the universe of Bay Area startup culture, the Elon Musks are the heroes. They seem to have a broad, sweeping vision of the future. But their true pedigree is measured how they manage to amass massivewealth behind their ideas — their ability to do. They believe they have the necessary tools to game reality. Their thinking is built on top of a hyper-commodified religious devotion to the transformative powers of scientific rationalism and a faith in the sanctity of numbers.”
    Liz Ryerson

    “Those that Buy and Sell Land, and are landlords, have got it either by Oppression, or Murther, or Theft.”
    Gerrard Winstanley

    The ascendency of Trump, a reality TV show host, vulgar real estate billionaire, and the first president with his own cologne line, is described personally, and repeatedly, as a narcissist. And I wont argue with that, except that I think narcissism is too complex an idea to just attach to the new celebrity President. For it is a condition that is intwined with history and with social controls and conditioning. Freud introduced the idea of secondary revision in The Interpretation of Dreams, in the section on dream work. Secondary revision is, as a short explanation, one of the processes of symbolization that allows the dream to both reveal and conceal at the same time. Samuel Weber, the best reader of Freud alive today, points out that ‘secondary revision’ is not unique to the unconscious. It is something most everyone does all time during their waking lives. In its crude form it is the manner of layering a faux rational explanation over a conflicted idea or emotion. What Weber calls a ‘specious intelligibility’. In dreams the revision creates a false meaning that helps to hide the more uncomfortable and truer meaning, and in fact this false meaning is usually very far away from the actual meaning of the dream story. In other words, the secondary version is usually too easy, too obvious and facile. The ‘too coherent’ quality of secondary revision can be extrapolated outward on a social scale. Freud makes clear that in waking life there is a desire to make an intelligible whole out of the world around us. So, in a sense, contemporary capitalist society is a sort of tromp-l’oeil manufactured world — and in post modern late capitalism this pseudo real has taken on deeply pathological dimensions.


    Lieko Shiga, photography.

    There are two branches of this revisionism going on in the West, today. One is the imposing of an official mass produced cultural and political narrative. The other is the personal as it has absorbed and overlapped with an ideologically tainted narrative. In the end they are both the same phenomenon but they operate in different ways for different effects and consequences. Now part of this is, as Freud put it, an innate intellectual function that demands unity. And this relates all the way back to animism and early notions of magic. But as Weber said, how can a function *demand*? The short answer today is that consensus has been added to all intellectual activity, at least in nominally social contexts. And here there is a capitalist aspect in so far as unity implies systematic completion, and completion means making sense of everything. Nothing must be wasted. There is an economic model that saturates western thinking today. Its related to risk management. This is the residue of late capitalism that leaves its fingerprints on all mental activity. But there is another cultural aspect to the general secondary revisionism of western society — and this is the need for manufacturing ever deeper horrors and carnage, fictionally, the better to offset the horrors of everyday life. When homeless men freeze to death outside of Hotels, the media covers it as if it were a TV show. The homeless are symbols of failure and laziness, and the new ruthless super ego feels more ingrained in the popular imagination that ever before. This harkens back to Dirty Harry, which may have been an even more significant symbol of psychic and political shifting than was thought at the time. And even at the time it was called fascistic.

    snip

    The bourgeoisie is the class of perceptual cohesion, if not actual cohesion. The unity of the system is a first priority for this is the class with both a stake in the status quo but also a vulnerability, one that the ruling elite hasn’t to worry about. It is that ersatz respectability that the liberal white American craves. And it is this that marks the biggest departure for mass culture since the realignment that took place in the 60s. Those shaped by the counter culture idea usually find it very hard to understand the submission of the following several generations; and I feel this when I run into people in their 40s or even 50s sometimes. I am surprised at the tacit respect for authority and the desire, so it seems, for conformity. With this comes a disproportionate respect for institutions. And not just the obvious ones, the military or government, but even things like the PTA or Cal Trans or whatever. Now I’ve been thinking of late about the Levellers and Diggers, and by extension the English bourgeois revolutions. But I think this is not an accident, and I suspect it is worth returning to the ways in which the Levellers coalesced into a movement. The Levellers, and True Levellers, were not a class as a traditional Marxist would define it, but rather were made up of small business owners (or what passed for that in the 17th century) and tradespeople and craftsmen, and also modest landowners. Without going into the ideas that drove aspects of this resistance (and the *Norman Yolk* etc) the desire was more for a tearing down of the ruling class and its privileges. With Gerrard Winstanley and the True Levellers, the revolt became more radical and more relevant for today.


    Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker, 1649.

    Daniel Johnson, in a good short piece on Winstanley, writes….“Winstanley and the Diggers also saw such an incompatibility, though from a distinctly rural and pre-industrial perspective during the development of agrarian capitalism in England. At a time when the enclosure of common lands threw vast numbers of peasants off the land and into wage labor and grinding poverty, Winstanley developed a radical philosophy that associated private ownership of land and wage labor with the exploitation and degradation of people and the earth.” The relevance resides in the inherent ecological dimension of Winstanley’s ideas. He saw the ownership of private property as intrinsically unfair and that somehow the oppression of workers was inseparable from the destruction of the environment. Wage labor itself was immoral and oppressive. By 1650 the Diggers were forming autonomous agricultural communities for the poor, and designing a return of the commons to the people.
    Johnson again…

    “In the spring of 1607, thousands of people in the Midlands of England rose to prevent the enclosure of their common lands. Participants (mainly rural laborers, artisans, and small farmers) referred to themselves collectively as “diggers” and “levellers”—up to that time terms of elite derision and contempt. Anti-enclosure riots were not, however, new to the early seventeenth century. Large-scale popular opposition to enclosing (the privatization of common lands) and engrossing (the amalgamation of two or more farms into one) dated to the fifteenth century. The conversion of arable to pasture land with the expansion of the cloth industry, a rapidly growing population, and changing class relations in the sixteenth century signaled the rise of agrarian capitalism in the English countryside.9 It is often forgotten that Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) was in large part a work of social criticism aimed at landholders who enclosed the commons for the production of woolens. The idle English nobility and gentry enclosed all land possible, leaving nothing for food production. Former tenants whose labor was no longer needed in the fields were forced to wander, beg, or steal for their survival, and many found themselves unemployed in “hideous poverty.”


    Polixeni Papapetrou, photography.

    This marked a class consciousness that in retrospect seems surprising only, or mainly, for its lack in terms of unity of vision. It was highly pragmatic and intuitive almost. That Trump is the son of a slumlord and himself a real estate mogul is probably not exactly an accident. His is a view that sees enclosing the commons as quite reasonable. The tenants are to be driven out, put on the other side of a wall if need be.
    Goebell’s Gleichhaltung— or the Nazi-fication of culture, drove many writers and artists and thinkers out of Germany in the early 1930s. That Nazi sensibility about culture was a resolved and unified vision for all expression of any kind. Enzo Traverso writing of Benjamin….

    “It was not enough to defend the legacy of the Enlightenment against fascism, because an effective struggle should recognize the links connecting fascism to modern rationality itself. Technical, industrial, and scientific progress could transform itself into a source of human and social regression. The development of productive forces could reinforce domination and its means of destruction, as the Great War had clearly proved. Fascism was neither a reaction against modernity nor a new fall of civilization into barbarism; it was rather a peculiar synthesis of the counter-Enlightenment—the rejection of a universal idea of humankind—and a blind cult of modern technology. ”

    http://john-steppling.com/2017/03/behind-the-nightmare/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  18. #58
    Democratic Domination
    MAY 25, 2017 | 2 COMMENTS


    Zwelethu Mthethwa

    “The spectacle’s social function is the concrete manufacture of alienation…”
    Guy Debord
    “When in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, he boldly proclaimed that distribution according to need, rather than strict equality, would herald the crossing of “the narrow horizon of bourgeois right,” Marx meant what he implied: that equality was an extrapolation from the presuppositions of capitalism. He had said as much in The Holy Family, declaring that the idea of “‘equal possession’ is a political-economic one and therefore still an alienated expression.”
    Patricia Springborg
    ““The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this estrangement, it recognises estrangement as its own power and has in it the semblance of human existence. The latter feels annihilated in estrange*ment; it sees in it its own powerlessness and the reality of an inhuman existence. It is, to use an expression of Hegel, in its abasement the indignation at that abasement, an indignation to which it is necessarily driven by the contradictions be*tween its human nature and its conditions of life, which is the outright, resolute and comprehensive negation of that na*ture”
    Marx (The Holy Family)
    “Marx believed that the working class was the most alienated class…. [He] did not foresee the extent to which alienation was to become the fate of the vast majority of people…. If anything, the clerk, the salesman, the executive, are even more alienated today than the skilled manual worker. The latter’s functioning still depends on the expression of certain personal qualities like skill, reliability, etc., and he is not forced to sell his “personality”, his smile, his opinions in the bargain.”
    Erich Fromm
    “Very early in my life I took the question of the relation of art to truth seriously: even now I stand in holy dread in the face of this discordance.”
    Nietzsche
    One of the great mystifications of the West, and certainly this is true in the U.S., is this idea of democracy. If you google Cuba or Iran or any nation not subservient to the US, you will find countless, nay, ENDLESS articles about the authoritarian nature of these countries and how they are not democratic. But I want to examine this a bit. In the US today nobody runs for national office (certainly not for president) without a huge bankroll.
    The Federal Elections commission estimates…to run for congress….
    House members, on average, each raised $1,689,580, an average of $2,315 every day during the 2012 cycle.
    Senators, on average, each raised $10,476,451, an average of $14,351 every day during the 2012 cycle.
    Elizabeth Warren spent 42, 000,000. Just saying.


    Peter Bleeker (1850s)

    Ok…so in other words one has to be or sell yourself to a millionaire, essentially. But the point here is about democracy. Chavez was elected several times but is still called a dictator (Bernie Sanders called him a dead communist dictator). And yet, Venzeuela is among the most democratic nations on earth. Russia is democratic. But all these places suffer problems, too. Corruption usually at the top. But who is the most corrupt nation on earth? Im guessing the United States (saudi arabia just pledged a hundred million to Ivanka Trump’s company…and Obama just did a speaking gig for three million…THREE FUCKING MILLION DOLLARS to talk at a climate change conference?). So clearly corruption exists throughout the institutions of governance in the US. Look at the courts, the racial bias, and clear inequality of the make up of those in prisons. Rich people do NOT go to jail in the US. Is that democratic? Or how something like 90% of judges and lawyers in capital cases are white. But ok…then we come to US allies. The US loves to speak of european democracy. And yet Belgium, Sweden, Norway, England, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, and the Netherlands all have Kings or Queens. And the influence of those monarchs vary from country to country, but its not without influence in any of them. And symbolically, Id say that sends a pretty strong message about privilege and class hierarchy. But thats just my opinion. Mostly I find people have been conditioned to adore royalty. Its partly the selling of a narrative of romance and partly just dreams driven by unrealistic desire for wealth themselves.
    “…we live in increasingly individualized societies, characterized by weak ties that generate many psychological, ethical, cultural and political problems. And second, social weakness is related to mercantilist processes. Market competition destroys the social fabric, the anthropological basis for the survival of any group of people.”
    César Rendueles


    Paa Joe (Coffin maker, Ghana).

    Exchange value is the cornerstone of Capitalism and freedom really means the freedom to sell your labor power. This is the source, after all, of capitalist wealth. And exchange value is the meaning of equality in capitalism. This seems a rather trenchant idea just now. The two signifiers of Democracy, at least for the western bourgeosie today, are tolerance and equality.
    Bourgeois liberal democracy then creates a framework for viewing the world. Kill someone (unless perhaps poor and black or latino) and you are arrested for a crime. Kill someone while in uniform as part of military service and you are applauded. Take someone and lock them in your basement and its a class A felony. But if the basement is a cell in D block, then it is simply a legal punishment by the state. I was thinking of India recently, the world’s largest democracy, and one that has perpetuated military war on its own people, as Arundhati Roy has noted, all tribal peoples in Punjab, in Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Kashmir. And this is also the legacy of colonialism. Democracy is indifferent to equality or tolerance. One does not lead to the other.


    John Ruskin

    In the US, in a system rife with extreme corruption, where innocent men are executed with veterinary chemicals, and where economic polorization is growing….and where racism is institutional and police power almost unlimited (a former slave owning state remember)….the system is constantly heralded as the best in the world. Israel, where a slow motion genocide is taking place in Gaza, is always talked about as the only democracy in the middle east. Iran is attacked in the West for it being a theocratic state. Yet Israel, also founded on an exclusionary religious and ethnic principle is lauded as Democratic. And yet the US works closely with the least democratic nation on earth, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (and Qatar and the UAE and Turkey)….I mean human rights violators are used as proxies by US military planners all the time. But back to democracy…in the recent Iranian elections the turn out was massive. In the recent US election less than half the population voted.
    If Iran is so tyrannical, why do so many people enthusiastically vote? Same with Russia? Or Venezuela? The campaigns of misinformation on those countries is staggering. Just staggering. The American animus toward all three is nearly mind numbing. I run into people who froth at the mouth when the name Putin comes up. I ask why they hate him so much and usually i get blank stares. Or a generalized non answer that he is a thug or dictator. Unlike, you know, Tony Blair or Trump or Hillary Clinton or Obama or Boris Johnson or Teresa May or Thatcher and Reagan for that matter.


    Queen Elizabeth II inspects the Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force, at Kaduna Airport, Nigeria, 1956.

    Cuba is always called undemocratic. And yet people vote on far more things relevant to their lives than do workers in the US. Its only that they don’t vote for president. But in the US you get to vote for one or another millionaire bought and owned by wall street and you do not get to vote for your minimum wage or rights in the workplace. Sometimes Im dumbfounded, really, by the lack of knowledge in most americans regarding the political process. So hidden by propaganda and media are other forms of social organization that most in the US, at least this is what I find, know ONLY the U.S. two party system.
    In Iran the supreme leader and his council have final say, in theory. In Norway the King, in theory, has final say on all things, too. And yes, they execute a lot of folks in Iran. And in Norway they don’t. Still, Norway is participating in US Imperial NATO aggression in Syria.
    In the US, the president just sold 100 billion dollars of military hardware to the #1 human rights violator in the world. A nation where women have no rights, none. The cant drive even. Where nobody votes for anything. NOTHING. Where beheadings are regular and carried out weekly. Where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. And where there are no trade unions, no parties, no anything. Oh well, ok, yeah there is a lot of oil. And hence an obscene amount of money. Now, Iran’s gross national product grew by nearly 7% last year. So, in terms of this hybrid system the capitalist side is doing rather well. And everyone knows China has done well with its hybrid capitalism. And Russia for that matter. The percentage of people living below the poverty line in the US is…according to somewhat untrustworthy statistics, around 18%. I’d say its more like 25%. In Russia its 14% and in Iran, as of 2007, its 17%. I don1t trust any of those figures, actually. In Niger its 43%. In Iraq its over 30% In the Congo its 50%. Estonia is 21% and Chile is 14%. The stats for Cuba are not available. But im guessing, despite 40 some years of embargo the statistics are very low. But nobody escapes western capital. The US remember has 800 plus military bases around the world. We patrol the globe.


    Vintage toys. Location and date unknown.

    Israel has a very mediated and exclusionary form of democracy. But then it is, as I say, like Iran, a religious state. And inherently religious states are fundamentally undemocratic. But who has Cuba attacked lately? Or Iran for that matter? It is claimed, by men like R.H. McMaster (and John McCain and Obama et al) that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism. The problem is, again, like democracy, one is going to have a hard time defining who is a terrorist. Was the bombing of the King David Hotel an act of terror? Was the Stern Gang a group of terrorists? Were the English occupiers in Ireland justified and was the IRA a terror organization? is Hamas? One person’s freedom fighter is another etc etc etc. But all of this is caught up in the justification for Capitalism. All of it. And the class struggle that ensues. The problem with most of the bourgeois class in the U.S. is that they fail to analyse their life and world with anything resembling a class analysis. This segues into a discussion (far too large to do properly here) on identification and identity politics.
    Marx, at his most pessimistic, concluded a speech in April 1856, to commemorate The Chartist People’s Paper…
    “In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary. Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it. The new-fangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, aretumed into sources of want. The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background if ignorance. All our invention and progress seem to result in encJowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force. “


    Viktor Kolar, photography.

    There are a dozen policy papers written over the last several decades in think tanks in the U.S. that openly call for global hegemony. That openly suggest the destruction of any rival as totally justified and even rational. These are the wonky men (and a few women) in flannel suits and wingtips that come out of that vast cauldron of thought that has as foundational members Friedrich Hayak, Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, but also Bill Buckley and Ayn Rand, and Alan Greenspan and Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinksi, and Samuel Huntington and Paul Volker or Ludwig Von Mises and the whole Austrian School. These are the spiritual ancestors of the Clintons and Bushes and certainly of Reagan and his gang. And before that we have the Dulles Brothers, whose long shadow looms over everything, still, in the US government. And in U.S. society.
    Would the French have left Algeria without violence and radical terror? The British left India because they were sick of it and losing money. Remember that England and France and Belgium and Germany and Holland and Spain mostly controlled the world for a couple hundred years, or maybe longer. The scale of the violence Europe inflicted on Africa and parts of Asia and all of Latin America is almost incalculable. The white man has destroyed and raped and plundered and oppressed tens of millions for hundreds of years. But this is the suppressed narrative. Go ahead and *google* the genocides of the last two hundred years. What do you find? Oh, Stalin and Mao. Such are the algorithms of corporate media and telecoms. The West propgandizes constantly by erasing chunks of history. You wont find Van Diemen’s Land or the Belgian Congo (not on the first page anyway). Or Britain and the famines of India. And I doubt many will have heard of Canada and first nation peoples. Sterilization and the displacing of children into proper white schools, exactly as happened in the United States with Indian Schools (sic). These were democracies of course. Not like those icky North Koreans. Those horrid Chavistas or Sandanistas or Maoist rebels in Nepal. Never mind each is, in fact, democratic. Or the authoritarian Russians. And then ask who the Ayatollahs have invaded exactly? Or who Russia invaded? And don’t say Crimea. They didn’t. My point is not that Russia is a paradise of equality and transparency. Or that Iran is not a theocratic state with severe and bloody state punishments. My point is that they are no worse, and probably better than the United States. Yes, Russia has a significant corruption problem, and so did Venezuela. Are they as authoritarian or corrupt as Saudi Arabia or Qatar? And what of Israel, what of the whole story of the founding of that nation. It was not an empty desert. A significant population was displaced, some murdered, and nearly all driven from their land and homes. Homes that were stolen outright in almost all cases. Moral calculus is indifferent to democracy.


    Leo Strauss

    If the U.S. cares so much for democracy why did they install the Shah in Iran? Why did they support Mobutu and Papa Doc and Rioss Mont? Why install Pinochet? Why are they supporting the Neo Nazis they put in power in Ukraine? Why does mainstream media not talk of this? Why the silence on Saudi beheadings for that matter? Does Rachel Maddow wax smugly and hector her audience about the authoritarian Knesset in Israel today? That the defense minister is a rabid frothing racist and gangster? No. Of course not. Other terms are used …*hardliner* is one. Does Brian Williams discuss the beauty of Hamas rockets as he did of U.S. rockets? Of Kim Jong Un’s missiles? The terrible beauty of the Saudi executioners blade as the sun glints off the blood soaked silver? Does he question the propaganda on Syria? At all, even a tiny bit? No. Amy Goodman doesn’t either. And she is theoretically alternative. If democracy mattered at all to the ruling class in the U.S., then campaign finance reform would have happened two decades ago. But this is the point. Electoral politics is always going to take place within a frame of Capitalism and private property and class hierarchies. Always. It is inextricably tied together with it.
    Even today the nature of the violence of slavery in the U.S. is minimized. People were treated as livestock. Worse in fact. But the reality is incrementally mediated by Hollywood, and in literature. Go ahead and read of the treatment of workers on sugar plantations in the early 20th century Caribbean, or of the diamond mine workers today in southern Africa. Such research requires effort. It is not officially sanctioned narrative.
    Elections do not intend for equality and fairness to be the end result. That is not why America has elections. The U.S. has elections to sustain the control of the propertied classes. It is there to further the draining of everything into the pockets of the 1%. Did anyone expect Donald Trump to be any different? No, the only surprise is how scared he looks half the time. But as Ray McGovern noted, Leon Panetta and Obama looked scared too. Capitalism cannot survive equality. Capitalism creates poverty. Capitalism creates inequality and manufactures and needs exploitation. Imagine as a thought experiment if somehow Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka had been elected. Think how long they would be able to govern. If Trump is under assault by various factions in the Intelligence community, and Pentagon, and the now much discussed *deep state*, imagine how much worse it would have been for ANY third party that found itself in power. But of course Stein never ever would have been allowed to be President.


    Jon Rafman

    This is also a good time to re-read Marcuse’s essay on tolerance (1968). Marcuse wrote it after Nixon was elected.
    “Tolerance is an end in itself. The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society. Such a society does not yet exist; progress toward it is perhaps more than before arrested by violence
    and suppression on a global scale. As deterrents against nuclear war, as police action against subversion, as technical aid in the fight against imperialism and communism, as methods of pacification in neo-colonial massacres, violence and suppression are promulgated, practiced; and defended by democratic and authoritarian governments alike, and the people subjected to these governments are educated to sustain such practices as necessary for the preservation of the status quo. “
    This was written fifty years ago almost. Preservation of the status quo. Equality is fine, as long as it’s the right kind of equality. Malcolm X said “I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate.”


    Brendan Smith

    Today the culture of trigger warnings and academic restrictions on unpopular opinion is outraged by the vulgarity and open misogyny and racism of Trump and his appointees. But nobody questions his military actions. For those actions are identical to all U.S. presidents since WW2. Nobody questions Trump’s military budget. Nobody questions his blind extreme support for Israel. Emanuel Macron, the recently elected President of France, has removed two appointees, his appointees, for their voicing support of the divestment movement against Israel. How is that possible, exactly? How is THAT racism, the racism of Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman or Tzipi Livni or Naftali Bennet acceptable? In fact, Western states are required to punish those who criticize Israel. So, really, there is nothing democratic or tolerant in the Western policing of thought. And how is it seen as in any way normal for Trump and R.H. McMaster and Rex Tillerson to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem during a state visit? (as did Bush and Bill Clinton and every other modern president). Such things, going to the wailing wall, or participating in a sword dance for christ sake, while in the absolute monarchy of KSA is alright, –but a phone call to a Russian official is a scandal. I have said before that this is the era of cognitive dissonance.

    more......

    http://john-steppling.com/2017/05/de...ic-domination/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

  19. #59
    Global Detention
    June 16, 2017


    Photo by Ninian Reid | CC BY 2.0

    “Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism…”

    — Max Horkheimer

    Nikita Khrushchev: The difference between the Soviet Union and China is that I rose to power from the peasant class, whereas you came from the privileged Mandarin class.

    Zhou Enlai: True. But there is this similarity. Each of us is a traitor to his class.
    There is now a clear genocidal intent in the Saudi attack on Yemen. An attack assisted by and designed in part by the United States. It is worth noting at the top that once King Abdullah died, and Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud took the throne, the shape of the Saudi power structure was changed. And the most important part of that change was the ascension of Mohammad bin Salman to defense minister. Bin Salman is all of thirty one, and in addition has retained the title of Minister of State, and added secretary general of the Royal Court. A rather astounding and nearly unprecedented consolidation of power in the hands of a thirty one year old. Additionally the eighty-one-year-old King is already suffering dementia and is not expected to long survive his tenure as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques {sic}. Bin Salman is second in line to the throne.

    Also worth noting that a week after Trump visited the Kingdom and did the sword dance and touched the orb (and seriously, what the fuck is all that?) the president appointed clear-cut nut job Michael D’Andrea to head up Iranian affairs at the CIA. A guy nicknamed ‘The Undertaker’. And a chain smoking abusive bully who converted to Islam (I mean there is a real story in unpacking D’Andrea). And a short time later a terror attack hit Tehran. Not to mention that secretary of war James ‘Mad Dog” Mattis is a longtime anti-Iranian zealot. You connect the dots. The U.S. is now ramping up an already breathtaking assault on the Arab world, and on the global south overall. And barely any of this is even mentioned in the mainstream press.

    The logic at work, from the U.S. assault on Yugoslavia (which looms as the real trial run) to Libya and Iraq and now Syria, has been not just to defuse pockets of developing resistance to Western capital, but to dominate labor markets and control resources. The penetration of Western capital is the engine behind this massive wave of attacks on the global south. All of this began, in a sense, at least in its current incarnation, after 1989 and the fall of the U.S.S.R. But the hyper escalation began with 9/11. And it was Obama, far more than Bush, that implemented the structural and tactical policy that Trump has inherited. And to return to the Saudis for a moment; Obama oversaw a cooperation with the Saudis in channeling money to Takfiri mercenaries as part of the assault on Syria. To the tune of billions of dollars (or as one analyst put it, over a hundred thousand dollars a year for every single anti Assad terrorist mercenary). And it was Obama who had U.S. military advisors in Riyadh, from day one, of the Saudi attack on Yemen. An attack that has left millions suffering starvation, and an outbreak of Cholera — a proxy biological attack itself, and a totally destroyed infrastructure.


    Crown Prince bin Salman: liable to rule for a long time. We must wonder what kind of shadow he will cast.

    And remember, too, that Saudi Arabia only exists in its current form because of the U.K., and because of subsidizing from the West. And the British saw some sort of logic in supporting the minority fringe fundamentalism of Wahabbist Islam. A short bit of history here: it was in the 1700s that Ibn Saud formed an alliance with itinerant religious fanatic Adl al-Wahhab and this alliance formed into a movement of fanatic reformists who terrorized the peninsula until the start of the 19th century. And once destroyed by Egyptians (and Turks), the Wahab doctrine survived underground in small enclaves of nomadic tribes. But it was the start of the 20th century that saw the return of Saudi power and Wahabi ideology.

    Johnny Grant wrote…

    “…Abd-al Aziz, the then Saud leader, returned from exile determined to reclaim the family’s former power. In doing so he used much the same tactics as his ancestor, Ibn Saud, namely employing fear under the banner of jihad. But there were two other important aspects to Aziz’s strategy that can’t be overlooked: the Ikhwan project, and the support from the British.

    A major part of Abd-al Aziz’s strategy for reclaiming the peninsula was to extend Wahhabism through radical teaching into the surrounding Bedouin tribes. The traditional tribesmen were considered theological ‘blank slates’ by the House of Saud. Primitive and unenlightened, the Jahiliyyah were opened up to Wahhabi conversion by Saudi clerics with great enthusiasm.”
    Aziz courted the British, who saw the wisdom in having a fanatical puritanical autocrat control the restive tribes and signed him up as part of a British protectorate. In 1932 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was born, and a few years later oil was discovered. The formation of the Kingdom also saw an early cooperation with Israel. Common goal drove this partnership and it was Israel, with of course U.K. help, that fought the revolutionary republican forces in Yemen that wanted to overthrow the authoritarian Imam of the time – forces backed by Egypt’s Nasser.

    Asher Orkaby writes…

    “Since neither London nor Riyadh wanted to openly support the royalist forces, they needed a partner that would be willing to organize airlifts clandestinely over hostile territory. They turned to Israel, the only country with more to lose than Saudi Arabia from an Egyptian triumph in Yemen. Israeli leaders, for their part, believed that supporting a proxy conflict with Egypt would forestall an Egyptian-Israeli confrontation in the Sinai, keeping Nasser too preoccupied to attack Israel.

    The celebrated Israeli transport pilot Aryeh Oz, then serving as the leader of Israel’s International Squadron 120, led the mission. Using a retrofitted Boeing Stratocruiser, he oversaw 14 flight missions to Yemen’s northern highlands between 1964 and 1966, carrying vital weapons and supplies that, in numerous cases, helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the royalists. Israeli pilots charted a flight path directly over Saudi territory, avoiding Egyptian fighter jets patrolling the Red Sea.”
    Israel and Saudi cooperation continues, especially in regard to Iran. And the influence of Saudi money extends to every corner of the Imperialist West. Let me quote Fintan O’Toole…

    “Wahhabism was born in the 18th century, Salafism in the 19th. And they are not “Islam” – Salafis and Wahhabis make up 3 per cent of Muslims. One of the more bizarre aspects of this ideology is that it involves attacks on things most Muslims regard as sacred. When western liberals wring their hands about giving offence to Muslims by depicting or representing the prophet, they miss the most important point. Cartoons in Charlie Hebdo are vastly less offensive to most Muslims than the destruction of early Islamic tombs by the Saudis. But of course self-appointed defenders of Islamic sensitivities, funded by Saudi largesse, won’t tell you that.”
    Western governments abide by the dictum, just don’t mention the Saudis. The vast majority of Iraqis and Syrians believe ISIS is a western invention. And so it is, by way of Saudi Arabia. The modernist blog notes…

    “These are precisely the populations which the western media universally insisted ISIS drew its support and sympathy. These are the people who the Western right insist simply spawn such savage groups periodically from the depths of their Oriental inscrutability, and of whom Western liberals parrot the equally racist absurdity that they are just so constitutionally barbaric as to morph into head-choppers after a certain sum of bombs have been dropped.”
    The Western mainstream press and good deal of the left in the West continue to express the generalizing Orientalism that links Milosevic, Qadaffi, and Assad as all the same, and all somehow inherently despotic and creations outside history. The demonizing of Islam is linked to the Western (meaning U.S. and U.K.) need to bury the reality of Saudi influence, and the history of Wahabbi fanaticism. But it is also a part of the hidden security apparatus (or deep state, a term predictably being ridiculed in mainstream media now) that works to defuse and squash any organic grassroots movements of resistance.

    Ole Tunander wrote….

    “US Rear-Admiral James Lyons, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy and Operations, in 1984 set up a ‘terrorist unit’ — known as the Red Cell — recruited from his own naval special forces (SEAL Team Six), to attack naval bases worldwide. This unit set off bombs, wounded US personnel and took hundreds of hostages as part of its operations. According to Lyons, it was necessary for US forces to get ‘physical’ experience of the terrorist threat in order to ‘change the mindset’ and ‘raise the awareness’ of the troops to prevent a possibly even more devastating attack.

    Once again, the US was developing a security system that included both sides of the coin. With the end of the Cold War and the decline of the Soviet threat, however, many Europeans believe this ‘dual structure’ — with its specifically tasked terrorist units — may have evolved into an instrument for establishing not only internal Western stability but also US global hegemony.”
    Ya think? The recent Manchester bombing is a perfect expression of the mechanisms of the hidden security hierarchy. John Pilger observed…

    “The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this. The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.

    Critical questions – such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst – remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review”. The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.”
    When Hillary Clinton ordered the assassination of Qadaffi, the killers were part of this same group that the U.K. protected and employed, in theory, when necessary. Again, this imperial policy goes back to WW2. And the goal was to stop secular states, to stop Pan-Arabism lest control of resources fall out of Western control. And the creation of Israel was part of the plan. Pilger adds…“Pan-Arabism has since been crushed; the goal now is division and conquest.” The truth is Mu’ammar Gaddafi never intended to massacre anyone. But the fact he controlled massive oil reserves served, among other things (like wanting to create a new currency to replace the dollar), to put a target on his back. The destruction of Libya included massive bombing of civilian areas and an estimated death toll (including a high percentage of children) in the tens of thousands. Obama ordered troops to South Sudan, the Congo, and the Central African Republic…a de-facto invasion of desperately poor nations, all with total invisibility in U.S. media. The western narrative on terrorist attacks never varies. Lone wolf acting alone. Product of a barbaric Islam, a culture of violence, anti modern, savage and anti democratic.

    Jim Kavanagh wrote…

    “The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.”
    The attack in Tehran, the one applauded by Trump and the craven imbecile Dana Rohrbacher, was claimed by ISIS. And ISIS, as must be clear by now, is the creation of Saudi Arabia with huge amounts of help from the U.S., Israel, and U.K. And secondary assistance from NATO, Turkey, Jordan, and the other gulf monarchies. When Trump blames Iran for the terror in its capital, he is part of the inversion of reality that is now daily fare in western media. Iran is the largest democracy in the region and the greatest opponent of fanatical Salafi terrorism. Israel continues to be a crucial actor in the global Imperial project of the U.S. They support ISIS financially, but also with safe passage through the Golan Heights, and with free hospital care; not to mention the intermittent air strikes by the Israeli air force. With Netanyahu under investigation for corruption, one can expect Israeli aggression will only increase in an effort to distract from his domestic problems.

    “…more than seventy American companies and individuals have won up to $27 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last three years, according to a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity. According to the study, nearly 75 per cent of these private companies had employees or board members, who either served in, or had close ties to, the executive branch of the Republican and Democratic administrations, members of Congress, or the highest levels of the military.” — Garikai Cheng
    So what is the conclusion one draws from all these facts? Well, firstly, the United States is the #1 world aggressor. The Saudis, like ISIS, like Kagame, are just a tool. Iran hasn’t invaded anyone for 300 years. It isn’t Russia that has 800 military bases around the world. That would be the U.S. And it was under Obama, who now looms as the worst president in history, that the constitution was essentially shredded. The U.S. now assassinates anyone anywhere in the world without due process, advocates indefinite detention of anyone, even U.S. citizens, without trial, and can label any American a terrorist without due process (you can be labeled a terrorist for paying cash at an internet cafe).

    The U.S. has entered a gilded age in which the affluent classes, the managerial class (now increasingly elitist, and including a kind of new technological expert priest class ) who live largely in big urban centers, have grown ideologically and culturally apart from the underemployed working class, are aligned with the impossibly rich 1%. The haute bourgeoisie are now not just structurally opposed to the working class, but culturally as well. They are white professional gentrifying educated and anti socialist. Race and gender cut across this, too. The violence against the third world is the same violence vented on black communities in the U.S. And I’ve seen essays arguing that racism is at an all time low (and argued this with a pseudo leftist in fact) when of course it is only a certain kind of manufactured image of anti racism that has grown. The real racism against black people is reaching new levels of sadism. The academic left concerns itself increasingly with identity issues while ignoring the massive uptick in direct violence against the global poor. No country the U.S. has attacked has offered even the remotest threat. Yemen was and is the poorest country in the Arab world. And domestically, despite various liberal laws now providing protection (and Dean Spade is very good on this with regards to trans people) there has been a growth of material punishment and marginalization of the most vulnerable. The mythology that passing laws changes something, like racism say, is actually one that ends up justifying racism because now, supposedly, in a post racist society if you fail it is because you are lazy or somehow just not up to the task. And running alongside this is the growing prison population. The violence against black communities is the same violence directed at Yemen, and Libya and Syria. There remains in the U.S. a dire housing shortage, food insecurity has grown, and stripped down welfare benefits. The state is the great punisher today, both domestically and globally. And the global violence is masked because much of it takes place through the hidden security apparatus, and domestically through the illusions of legal faux legitimacy. That Obama succeeded in sustaining an image of progressive liberalism is one of the great propaganda achievements of the modern era. For Obama did nothing for the poor, and globally intensified the imperialist drive for global hegemony. And that is the story in one sentence. Globally the United States has destroyed secular governments, supported monarchies and dictatorships, propagandized against all secular socialist minded leaders and in fact against any leader not prostrate in obedience. Our allies, such as Israel, are exactly the same. Expansionist and racist and militant. Or like Saudi Arabia, degenerate and morally bankrupt societies of bigotry and cruelty. That is the company the U.S. keeps.

    Gordon Huff, a Vietnam veteran, wrote…

    “Every day my father would return from the Ford factory, describing 120-degree heat and air steeped in carcinogenic solvents. His friends and coworkers died in their 50s. By age 55, he had suffered half a dozen heart attacks and was on disability of $60 a month to support a family of 4. This is a common story, not an exception, this is how my generation grew up, mowing lawns, shoveling snow for money for shoes, working to support a family as early as 10. This is the American generation that went to Vietnam and it was the generation that taught the Pentagon that their games would not continue unopposed.

    Today it’s different. The public questions little, those in the military question nothing. When America’s invading armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, under bush never found WMDs or the massive underground terrorist fortresses Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld spoke of, what was the downside? Thousands of American military were killed over not just nothing but abject lies.

    When billions in cash was stolen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, when 250,000 AK 47’s purchased by the US government for the Iraqi military simply disappeared, nobody saw it. When Haliburton Corporation furnished the US Army with drinking water taken unfiltered from the Euphrates River, one of the most polluted bodies of water on Earth, hundreds infected with Hepatitis and other diseases, nothing was said, certainly no congressional investigation but the Pentagon was silent as well. Also silent were the troops in the field, silent then and still silent.”
    And Hollywood deserves a fair share of blame for the effectiveness of the propaganda. The endless repetition of Imperial lies and the fawning adoration of militarism has helped create a nation run by a sub literate gangster billionaire. A president who appoints only other billionaires or just old fashioned regressive cracker racists like Jefferson Sessions. Raw meat tossed to the xenophobic right wing. And I will tell you now, Trump will get re-elected because the class segregation is now deeply entrenched and the collaborator liberal class will in the end defer to their own self interest. They will vote Democratic (Chelsea Clinton? Michelle Obama? Cory Booker?…who is the next Democrat to run against Trump? It won’t be Hillary because I think her health will prevent it). But whoever it is, they will lose. And for the same reasons Hillary lost this time.

    This is a society of extraordinary denial and self delusion. Global aggression and the artificial Salafi terrorist mercenaries are the result of Capitalism and Imperialism. They are the proxy warriors in the West’s irrational lust for more. Of everything. And of the barely concealed death instinct of the western psyche.

    http://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/0...bal-detention/
    "We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'

    MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).

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