I keep having this strange sense of the hallucinatory as I follow the Boston Marathon story.
And then to follow or attempt to track the public response to the entire city of Boston being under martial law. The docility with which this was accepted is pretty alarming. The public response though cannot be separated from the public’s consumption of Hollywood film, and/or TV and corporate news. The story of the Tsarnaev brothers increasingly resembles a film script. And people increasingly “watch” it as they watch a movie.
But when I say movie, I suppose it’s important to differentiate between corporate product and not corporate –OR–maybe it’s not.
The landscape portrayed in media, against which the bomb attacks took place, is a created simulacra— it is Anytown Kansas by way of Oz. What is missing, is already missing because of Hollywood film. The audience has internalized certain structures and codes. The disappearing reality of the poor and the working poor, the anxiety that infects daily life, the increasingly autistic single minded focus on ‘productive’ labor, on the job. The sense of disconnect, and this increasing resentment, is all invisible. I think now there is something like a supermarket of manufactured realities for the public. People can pick and choose the one to which they wish to subscribe. But it’s more than that; it is the ownership of this selection. And it happens on an individual and a group level. I think the public forms groups based on the selection of manufactured reality they want to believe in. Group solidarity based on which fan club you belong to.
There is a sense of the artificial world beginning to take precedence over direct experience, and this is the effect of electronic media, social media, and movies, and corporate news. They all overlap.
One can see certain fantasy worlds created in Hollywood film and TV. This is sort of obvious, really. Besides the worship of the military and state, themes of patriotism, and the like, there are the secondary tropes of family, of the codes that assign places for gender, race, and the structures as well as dreams of ‘your’ group. Just as an example, if you watch the CBS cop franchise “Blue Bloods”, with Tom Selleck, you see the reactionary white male fantasy world (Bruce Willis films do this almost exactly, as well). A white Catholic male as the benign patriarch of a family of cops. What could be more perfect. There are no drunken fights, no domestic abuse, no rape, no corruption — only a specific brand of male privilege and authority. There is, and this is quite true in any Willis film too, a nostalgia for those simpler times (which never really existed) when white men weren’t so threatened by minorities, by women, by leftists or liberals, and especially by lax morals. In the latest Die Hard installment, this reaches almost surreal levels of anachronism and cognitive dissonance. In the midst of a mass conflagration on the highways of Moscow, Bruce is upset his son isn’t showing proper respect to his father. It is interestingly both ironic and not ironic. It is delivered with a nudge nudge wink wink, at the same time it is completely in earnest.
When one looks at the realities of the U.S., among the worlds not on offer, are those Paul Street writes about:
“The fiscal tightening in Washington – primarily the automatic budget cuts imposed by Congress…and the increase in Social Security taxes this year.” Small business is “dead in water” (so says the head of the National Federation of Independent Businesses), generating a bleak mood that “remains stuck near recession levels.”
On the other hand, corporate “earnings” are at record levels. Profits for the largest 100 companies in the Standards & Poor 500 stock index are expected to increase by 6.6% this quarter. Fully 22% of the S&P 500’s profits will come from the nation’s largest 10 publicly traded companies, up from 18% in 2010.
Schwartz could have added that after-tax U.S. corporate profits last year were $1.75 trillion, a more-than-50% increase over the previous record of $1.125 trillion in 2006. He might have noted that, as Joel Geier recently observed in the International Socialist Review, those “profits were the highest percentage of GDP on record, with wages the lowest percentage historically.”
Ok, as a digression….among many…..because one of the things I keep seeing is the intense bullying of anyone (and there ARE a lot) who are having trouble believing the cover story for Boston bombings.
It seems that that a time lag occurs after big catastrophic events….say ten years, usually twenty or thirty, for the facts to emerge. This is because, partly, that by the time these facts emerge, nobody much cares anymore. There are new stories to be distracted by and new events to have covered up. But it is useful to go back and remember…
Operation Gladio (http://www.globalresearch.ca/secret-warfare-operation-gladio-and-natos-stay-behind-armies/5303061)
and then WACO, (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/waco-a-new-revelation/)
The list of course could on and on and on. Yellow Cake from Niger, or this http://wideshut.co.uk/lockerbie-bomber-hypocrisy-and-conspiracy/
There are of course many more covert CIA ops (Air America, with Tony Pope et al) or
or Iran Contra, or Hill & Knowlton with their babies torn from incubator stories, or to return to a more direct connection to domestic terror, one has to return to Tim McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Or, I suppose to James Earl Ray or Lee Harvey Oswald. I would suggest Richard Raznikov be read on the subject of the JFK assassination. And there are countless sources for the facts behind the MLK assassination. The point is, we know the state operates all the time in covert and secret ways. But, one of the prevailing memes in-play today is the one that labels questioning “conspiracy theory” and immediately links it to the fringe kooks who imagine invisible helicopters bombing your houses with gamma rays (it has often occurred to me that Alex Jones was psy ops of some sort, and put there to discredit investigative journalism).
So since these facts are all available, and I only scratched the surface, really, why is it, as a general rule, labeled “not believable” when, for example, someone posts photos of privitized security men, with back packs, at the site of the explosions in Boston? Now, I have no idea what happened, and have no idea why they were there. But its worth a look I think. But this leads me to what is, I think anyway, my main point. *Believability*.
In a landscape of increased economic polarization, and insecurity, there seems an ever more desperate clinging to establishment narrative by those who are not suffering directly (yet anyway). I think if you canvassed the lowest economic rungs of the U.S. about Boston, you would find a good deal of incredulity about the official version. If you canvas elite upper class neighborhoods I suspect far fewer questions about this version would exist, and much more attention would be devoted to the detailed stories and background analysis of the Tsarnaev brothers. I think what you see when you superimpose these two points of view is the breakdown of cognitive process in the U.S. The self fragemented, compartmentalizing of attention. And this in turn leads to the reliance on these branded codes — whether Tom Selleck or Aaron Sorkin.
The official *elite* version of the story (the educated classes version) goes like this:
I wont bother linking any of the many pretty loopy sites (so called conspiracy theory sites) out there, but they defy all logic and often, actually, make no sense. However, they do serve the purpose of expressing something of the discontent many people feel. They are irrational, but then so are Astrology columns, and both link in interesting ways to that desire for an unknown, an unsolvable mystery, which in turn is the desire for the spiritual. This is not to say there isn’t terrific ivestigative journalism happening, because it is. But there is a danger, a restraint often, for fear of being called a conspiracy nut.
However, the Remnick version in the New Yorker mystifies every bit as much as Alex Jones, only primarily by omission. The Craft Security guys don’t play a part in this narrative. The echos of Waco or Ruby Ridge or the Murrah Building are left out. There is a tacit backdrop of the rational state.
These partial uncritical perspectives extend, obviously, to the sense of politics.
Paul Street again:
“The powerful and highly class-conscious political and policy actors in the corporate and financial “1%” know all this very well. They do not rely on the market alone to bring about record-setting profits while millions struggle with the merely “human recession” that festers beneath the “statistical recovery.” Behind their “anti-government” and “free market” rhetoric, they pull plutocratic strings to ensure that government works on behalf of big capital and the upward distribution of wealth. Thanks in no small part to their pressure, for example, the White House and Congress imposed the lion’s share of last year’s last-minute tax increase on the working and middle classes – not the so well-to-do who sit atop a class structure that is now so savagely unequal that the six Walton (Wal-Mart) heirs have as much total net worth as the bottom 41.5% of Americans. The majority of the whittled-down Obama tax hike – $125 billion of the $212 billion increase – came from increasing the payroll tax by 2%. This amounted to a 2% wage reduction for all Americans making less than $113,000 a year. Thanks to elite money influence, it remains unthinkable that policymakers would exhibit a serious commitment to deficit reduction and to the reasonable funding of Social Security by getting rid of the blatantly regressive cap on payroll taxation beyond $113,000.”
These are things all but invisible to corporate product. The ruthless conscious policies of brutality and predatory ethics make no appearance in the world of “entertainment”. And if they do, formally speaking, they do in a very particular manner that encloses any idea of dissent — in other words the problem is resolved. Which leads me to ‘believabilty’. I never know what people mean when they say something wasn’t “believable”. It’s as slippery an idea as *fun*. It is one of those notions that can’t be pinned down. Was “Zero Dark Thirty” believable? Was “Argo” believable? There is a blurring that goes on here, between naturalistic behavior, based on accepted notions of motivation, and the macro-meaning which asks the audience place this narrative in an historic context, or at least one in which the nature of human behavior and identity is interrogated. A director like Bruno Dumont, or better, Audiard, (to choose among the currently working), or Pasolini and Fassbinder, or Bresson — one is rarely going to even think about ‘is this believable’. Why is that?
The New Yorker article on the Chechen brothers who allegedly planted the bombs in Boston appeals to the educated informed readers of glossy mags who can feel as if, well, they understand a bit more about why such tragedies happen, and will now be able to add another small digit of imperialist prejudice to their perspective on the Caucuses, and Islam. This is branded thinking at work. These are all style codes and memes that serve as short hand for actual real thinking. For actual questioning. Perhaps everything Remnick wrote is exactly correct. It still doesn’t mean that article is not branding. Because in the end, the underclass is excised in the most paternalistic manner. If you uncritically take cops at their word, you have lost credibility.
In the same week the attack in Boston happens, CIA efforts to destabilize Venezuela are ramping up. Super hypocrite John Kerry asks for a recount. The fascist opposition means to move on Maduro, and Morales, too, for that matter. This has been what the U.S. government has done for sixty years.
*Believabilty*: well, here….Chris Kyle is the guy who runs Craft Security. Self branded “worlds deadliest sniper”.
All the Craft guys, by the way, at the Marathon were vets of Operation Enduring Freedom. Make of that what you will. But one might reasonably ask why they were hired to work security. I thought that’s what the Boston police deartment gets all that money for?
Believabilty. Here is a little footnote from the Craft web page (you too can get a Skull T shirt)….
Hollywood is going to make the Chris Kyle movie. Hollywood alread made a film about Air America — a comedy!! With Mel Gibson. Because, you know, what’s funnier than secret wars and heroin smuggling.
The questions are always there. After every tragedy, every attack, there are questions. Most go unanswered, but almost always there is an official version. It’s comforting. And it has to be *believable*. But it IS believable, because its official.
I wrote last posting that almost all studio product is set against the backdrop of white patriarchal privilege. Almost all of it is misogynist and almost all of it is racist. How can it not be? And included under the umbrella of this privileged narrative is an extensive militarism and worship of authority. The Pentagon might as well officially list itself as part time studio, such is the inter-relationship between Hollywood and the military. There is also another theme running under all this. This is the sense of empowerment an ever more desperate white masculinity feels, and the acute desire for legitimation of this masculinity through force. Jock culture is a strange parody of the military. What they both share is a violence toward women. In fact, toward anything not exactly like they are. Black jocks usually have just appropriated white jock culture. Not all, and the exceptions are worth a whole posting all by themselves.
Nice piece here by Dave Zirin..
So, it is believable to have an Irish Catholic family of cops, but not, say, a poor Kurdish immigrant family of laborers, or maybe workers in the service sector. Why is that? Well, it is literally not believable to a large swath of the public because what that Kurdish, or Polish, or Albanian or Syrian or Moroccan or Belarussian family would feel and say is not part of the canon of accepted codes. If Hollywood attempted such a show — lets pretend an executive took a lot of LSD25 and somehow gave this show the green light there would of necessity be dialogue based on accepted white codes, which would read as *not believable* in the mouths of foreigners, OR it would be an honest dialogue, taken from the real material world of the working class, and THAT dialogue wouldn’t and couldn’t be heard. The working class in film usually must speak “working class”. It’s all very well defined. The working class must be seen in the accepted context, as well. There are exceptions, but I think you would be hard pressed to find many.
So, a Kurdish worker literally would not be heard. You might as well film the show IN Kurdish, or Polish, or whatever. For Polish is no more alien to most Americans than is the language of the underclass. The sensibility of those punished every day for poverty, for the abuse they endure, is usually radicalized in some sense — it has learned not to trust. It has learned subterfuge as well.
This is the same sense one gets arguing with people who say, oh, those inner city kids really need to pull up their pants. The dial always is turned back to one’s own privilege, assuming one is white. The dial is always set to conformity. (Why can’t they dress like I do, as I find acceptable?).
Today, the events in Boston play out over the electronic media much as a film would on a continuous loop. The audience looks for familiar characters, familiar events. And because the police are so familiar, this audience projects familiar plot points onto their actions. Ex NAVY seals are familiar too (didnt Costner play a Seal? or..what that Steven Segal? Hell, it seems maybe every young actor in Hollywood has) they are projected in mimetic readings, occupying the familiar roles this audience has seen thousands of times. One of the interesting things about how the CIA is depicted in Hollywood film, is that Langley is always the most appealing work place in America. Smiling and very cute secretaries, brusk but avuncular senior management, and hunky young recruits. How many thousands of times has this been seen? What is happening is a total break down of cognition I believe. Was Boston a movie? Was the guy in the wheel chair an actor? Thought there would be more blood…oh, well, the producers know what they’re doing. Is Wolf Blitzer playing himself?
The state has a budget for deception. Black ops. What does one think they do with that budget?
The state has been responsible for most atrocities, not all, over the last hundreds of years. The U.S. has lied constantly, they have lied so much they no longer know what is true. It has no meaning. Rumsfeld, Hillary, Bill, and Obama, or Kerry or Hagel or Wolfowitz, or Cheney or Biden or Petreus, or Wes Clark, or Poindexter, or Ollie North, or Allen Dulles or LBJ or Jerry Ford — or any of those who wander the corridors of power, they are above truth/false dichotomies; for they are in their own movies, too.
They are making the story and you are the audience. I have no idea what happened with the Tsarnaev brothers. I have no idea if the cover story is real. I can’t know. But I think that is what is real is the city of Boston was put on martial law status, locked down, and complied obediently. Perhaps there is a strange current of sado-masochism at work in this (beat me, make me write bad checks, put my city under martial law)…whatever it is, the society has as a whole has stopped thinking there is anything to question. After all, Matt Damon or Bradley Cooper will take care of everything.