Celebrity, Paranoia, and Risk

The Cosby Show, season 3

Several topics rattling around my head….that seem (!) related. But maybe everything is related.

Joe Nava wrote a nice small essay titled Looking for the Unconscious in Film, on his blog, here…

There is in this topic, a relation to the spectacle as it was vomited forth on all media outlets this week. The DNC. In particular, though, I’ve been thinking on Michelle Obama’s speech. And by extension on the colonizing of consciousness.

And I’ve been thinking a bit about Zizek, and how philosophy now, in the guise of this self promoting buffoon, is just more branding. Actually, its worse, for Zizek advertises himself as a leftist. And he’s not left on anything. It’s the same as Obama saying

The Saboteur, 1942

“I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. “

No, actually you don’t know, and your daughters will never be in combat, because they come from a rich and connected family. Obama didn’t serve in the military. No recent president has. Does Obama know the frustration of workers? Of course not.

So, this is the disconnect going on with the political spectacle. But it goes on in other ways, and Zizek is simply another sympton of this. But more on that in a moment.

I want to bring back Joe Nava’s trenchent little essay, for I think its important to see how the unconscious disrupts and destabilizes narrative — and why when someone says, for example, Hitchcock’s films were reactionary, they are badly missing the point. Hitchcock may have been a royalist, I don’t know, but his films were expressions of the uncanny and their disturbing disequalibrium, often almost subliminal, serve as points of comparison with (what I’ve come call) kitsch. Kitsch is the pre fab mass produced product that is repeated endlessly, every day—the same formula and the same erasure of the unconscious. The same project for stability –for unification of the picture of the real. Now, Lacan enters here, and to just make clear, because so much film criticism of the 80s was borrowed from Lacan (wrongly I think) that these terms need some clarification (further distorted and misunderstood by Zizek). Lacan saw man, modern man, as caught in a rapture with his own ego (and perhaps super ego). That people share the same delusional system of consciousness as the clinically paranoid is very to the point. This system is so entrenched that any threat to its stability is met with aggression and even violence. Now, this notion of an ideal picture of the body (via the mirror phase) might well be linked to other thinkers, from Wilhelm Reich (and of course Freud, on whom its really based) and Horkeheimer and Adorno, and Gramsci and Norman O. Brown. And no doubt quite a few others. But…to continue for a moment more, this illusion of unity becomes neccessarily rigid and highly defensive. Coupled to the commodity form, almost all mental activity seems to be seen in terms of ownership. It all becomes propriatorial. Now, this object-body is extended, of course, into the world. The objectified world, and with all the same characteristics. And all the same fragility. No matter how many Condi Naste glossies, no matter how many episodes of Friends or NYPD Blue, or Boardwalk Empire, this ‘picture of the real’ is subject to fissures and cracks and destabilization. Lacan said we are led to see objects as defined egos. With unity, permanence, and solidity. But of course as pure simulucra they possess none of this. The system of domination, the capitalist reproduction of this picture of the real, is there to keep propping up the image of unity. Its the trending of the system, the individuals in it, usually a ruling class creating marketing or cultural amusement for the masses, that generally move to reflect back a picture of the real that includes the very values it deems important. Obedience to authority, adjustment to the status quo, and fear of the ‘other’. For paranoia operates within these equations from both directions.

So, kitsch is there to prop up the delusional ownership of opinions and a world of unity and predicability, while the artistic unconscious is there to awaken people from this death’s grip of paranoid insanity. To destabilize and de-unify the picture of the real. Hitchcock’s films, which Joe Nava touches on, in particular Vertigo, are subtle expressions of the destabilizing. This is worth an entire three or four entries……. but the performances Hitchcock demanded were as blank as possible, for his instincts suggested to him that the uncanny lay elsewhere. In the unsettling glance, the choreographed heads in a crowd turning in unison, or the snap of Robert Walker’s two tone wing tips on the sidewalk out front of the train station in Strangers on a Train, and not in a psychologizing of character.

But what of the DNC? This is what kept striking me, again and again, as I watched Michelle Obama’s speech…..this is another piece of kitsch performance. Show Tippi Hedrin in Marni, and then Michelle Obama’s speech. The world of drone strikes and bloody children and secret prisons with isolated men swept off the face of the earth, the immigrant holding tanks of privitized prisons where rape is routine, or white cops shooting more unarmed black teenagers, or the criminalizing of whistle blowers, of those whose personal integrity is now a criminal offense. The DEA shooting the wrong boat off the Honduran coast. The SWAT teams of every city in the US….all this is missing, airbrushed out. Not just by omission, but by the presentation of manufactured reality. The picture of the real. This was a TV show. This was The Cosby Show, or The Good Wife. It was kitsch, it very carefully eliminated those strokes of the uncanny one finds in Hitchcock (and Fassbinder and Dryer and Pasolini and Val Lewton, et al). It was cued and scored the same way as a 3 camera sit com. Michelle Obama’s very voice changed, and the Jennifer Aniston good girl effect was presented, against a backdrop of absolute familiarity — talking heads, speaking but not meant to be heard. Sound, colors, balloons, and funny hats. And there the first lady stood addressing her High School graduating class, or a Mayberry USA college for women. For the *women* signifiers were all over the place. Strong women…Stockard Channing in The West Wing, or The Good Wife, or Aly McBeal or…..etc.

The reality however, or an aspect of it, as described by Glen Ford:

Frankly, who wants to be the one to point out, in the middle of the festivities, that Michelle Obama was just a Chicago Daley machine hack lawyer who was rewarded with a quarter million dollar a year job of neutralizing community complaints against the omnivorous University of Chicago Hospitals? She resigned from her $50,000 seat on the board of directors of Tree-House Foods, a major Wal-Mart supplier, early in her husband’s presidential campaign. But, once in the White House, the First Lady quickly returned to flaking for Wal-Mart, praising the anti-union “death star”behemoth’s inner city groceries offensive as part of her White House healthy foods booster duties.
She also serves on the board of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the corporate foreign policy outfit to which her husband dutifully reported, each year, in his pucker-up to the presidency. The Obamas are a global capital-loving couple, two cynical lawyers on hire to the wealthiest and the ghastliest. They are no nicer or nastier than the Romneys and the Ryans, although the man of the house bombs babies and keeps a kill list. Yet, former “green jobs” czar Van Jones, a convention night chatterer on CNN who was fired by Obama for no good reason, chokes up when he speaks of the Black family that fronts for America – a huge act of national camouflage.”

This wasnt at all what one saw of course. Now, politics in the US has always been a side show, but never before has the narrative and image so blurred with corporate mass produced cultural fictions. Its interesting I remember how Reagan was always lauded for his oratorical skills, when in fact he was B actor with very little skill speaking. Probably this serves as a marker for the shift in critical aesthetic reading.

There has been a general sort of simplfying of Lacanian thought in film theory — from Laura Mulvey to Zizek. The register of the imaginary is not so easy to define, and the reason for its existence in the first place is to shroud the horrors of the Id. The Lacanian *real* is not quite the same (at least as used by Mulvey and others) as what I am calling the picture of the real. But there are, clearly similarities and I will try get to back to those.

Marnie, 1964

What gets systematically erased is the uncanny. It is that destabilizing gesture or glance. Hence the almost robotic quality of politicians giving such speeches. They read them from prompters, but everyone pretends they don’t. They are there to be judged like contestants on American Idol. Or rhythmic ballet in the Olympics. I give Mrs Obama a 9.2. Three points deduction for cueing the audience to applaud. And a half point for an errant strand of hair. But so conditioned is today’s audience, that this IS politics. THIS is reality. The picture IS the thing. Nature is not as real as National Geographic or the Sierra Club. Relationships are formed with favorite celebrities, and because they are so fragile, and because this system of representation is built upon a foundation of paranoia, rivelry, and total fragmentation….the primal fictive narrative as it were….the fear of the castle walls coming down is met with panic. There is a palpable desperation for the Truman Show not to be revealed.

I kept thinking of The Cosby Show watching this whole convention. Cos, the black millionaire, the reactionary answer to Richard Pryor, was always working hard to scrub away anything threatening, anything sexual, and certainly remeniscent of BLACKNESS as white america imagines it on the street. Cosby’s sexuality was always that of a grandfather, even before he came close to that age. But it’s Phylicia Rashad who is the model here. Strong woman, black, loves her virile husband….but…..uh, not TOO virile, ok?

North by Northwest, 1959

One of the problems with Zizek’s analysis of film is that it operates in an historical vacuum. Narrative itself still intercedes for the mimetic process….regardless of the viewer’s situation vis a vis the images.- The processing of image is always following narrative. Obviously even true in silent film. Zizek fetishizes the subjective so that all historical meaning is rendered pointless. What passes for historical is just a hagiographic gloss that usually ends as clever tautology.

Zizek on Vertigo:

Of course none of this is correct, and its mostly just babbling. The desire of the forbidden dead woman, is impossible to fulfill. Its in its impossibility that the outlines of desire are drawn and THAT is what is so unsettling in Vertigo. For Hitchcock’s repeated fascination with frigidity and impotence are markers for what emerges as the uncanny. The familiar made unfamiliar, or their close proximity, is the emerging of what was once familiar but is now distorted by repression to surface in a way unfamiliar, and hence alienating. It is the process of Freud’s return of the repressed. I am hardly the first to note that it is the landscape in Hitchcock films that are the real triggers for the uncanny experience. Margaret Iverson does a very precise comparsion of Hopper’s House by The Railroad and Bates Motel in Psycho. If Hopper was once seen as a Rockwellian illustrator, a slightly sentimental representational painter, it was Lacanian based film theory that reinvigorated the study of Hopper. And it is in the Hopper landscape, like in Hitchcock, that this presentation of the ordinary world turns into something more menacing and paranoid. Into that landscape Hitchcock places the icey blond heroines of his films — and it was in Tippi Hedrin that Hitchcock found the perfect performer for his vision. To compare Ingrid Bergman with Hedrin is to see why Hitchcock instinctively knew the far too fertile and moist Bergman would disturb the dynamic of impossible desire. Grace Kelley and Hedrin remain the most perfect of Hitchcock actresses. Eva Marie Saint is probably the most exaggerated performance of any actress in his films (North by Northwest) in the same way Montgomery Clift was the most exaggerated male performer (I Confess). But for the matter at hand, what is worth noting is that in any Hitchcock, the sense of disunity is always present. This was not the picture of the real, these were the landscapes of modern America dissected in much the same way Hopper dissected them. Hitchcock framed, very methodically, a *typical* American landscape. The opening shots of Phoenix in Psycho, or the farm lands of the mid west in North by Northwest, and in all cases the viewer senses a question unasked. The question of what pathology lurks within any description of the ordinary. The Hitchcock landscape contains a sense of melancholy, but more, it contains a sense of society as pathological.

The uncanny is found in fugitive gestures and looks, and in the sense a character has of being watched. There have been volumes devoted to the gaze in Hitchcock, starting with Laura Mulvey, and there is no need to go into that here, for what is interesting vis a vis the fiction of U.S. politics, is the clinical choreography of its presentation. Michelle Obama’s speech is so artifical, such a simulacra of a person — so calculating in its manipulation of emotion, so rigorous in its clearing of uncanny elements and its banging on central thematic points — targeting clearly a middle class sensibility as one finds it in today’s degraded national consciousness. It is almost the inverse of a Hitchcock scene.

The sense of celebrity cannot be ignored here, either in Michelle Obama nor in Zizek. These are the empty marketing brands of politics and public discourse. That Zizek is taken seriously by anyone is possibly even more astounding than the political theatre in the U.S.

There is a connection between willfull blindness in the viewing of the U.S. political elections, and the blindness connected with cultural erasure of the uncanny, and the promotion of formulaic kitsch narratives. With the disregard for actual material policies, for war and neo-imperialist occupation and with an addiction to celebrity and to an artifical world view defined by a kitsch naturalism, by a *picture of the real* that is constructed in studio and network marketing departments. So that what a politician (or his wife) says is embraced in exactly the same way Cliff Huxtable’s homilies and bromides were embraced. The disconnect finds its economic expression in derivitive markets and credit fault swaps.- As Randy Martin said:
“What began as the financial service industry’s embrace of risk management tools in the face of overexposure to foreign debts has been refigured as a subjectivity of consumer finance that infuses domesticity with risk.”

The mediated subject creates new metaphors and spatializes in new ways. The perceptual identification with the crowd, the symbol of laboring masses, is replaced by the solitary investor, in his or her own home at the computer, stratigizing securitizations. The crowd is increasingly a symbol of threat and something unmanagable. If you cannot manage yourself, you are part of this unmanagable, the “at risk” (per Martin). Popular culture of course reflects this trend and look no further than Dark Knight Rises, perhaps the film that most blatantly criminalizes and pathologizes the crowd, the masses. The term “responsibility” maintains traction in this, for the moral parable has become one where those who cant manage their own risk are criminalized. Mental maps contain partitions and these usually define boundaries of safe and unsafe. IV drug users and homosexuals are “risky”, their behavior is high risk. The War on Drugs, a symbolizing of hatred for the poor, really, led to harsher sentencing laws and increased police powers of surveillance. RICO laws, 3 strike laws, and punishment in general were material narrativized by Hollywood film and TV through the endless cop franchises and extended to global affairs by military narratives. The War on Terror, another narrative with no material object, only an abstract noun. The increased prison population was looked at, like debt, as an economic opportunity. Privite prisons. Hotels for the pathologized poor. For they are only a more punitive version of the Victorian poor house.

Built into all this are narrative tropes that establish themselves in the new subjectivity. Often subtle and often not. From sports team mascots (Indians, Redskins, etc) to Blackhawk and Apache helicopters. The victims are branded under cover of “bravery” by instruments created for dealing out death, by the state which committed genocide against these very people. There is a dialectic going on here, too. The economic, the erasure of the unconscious, and the state’s depiction of itself….a subjectivized state. The “state” must now have a personality. Uncle Sam to the tenth power. But these forces also interacted…one creating space for the other. If youth were a fertile market for consumer goods, it was also, wearing and using those goods (hoodies, cell phones, etc) that it was to be stigmatized. So the electoral spectacle was part celebrity roast, part sporting event, and part TV show.


The personality of the state under Bush was blustering and macho and accessorized with cowboy drag, pick up trucks, boots, and shotguns. Under Obama it is urbane, articulate, and far more in line with Hollywood liberal sensibilities. From Friends, to the Cosby Show, to The Good Wife, The West Wing, and Oprah, the personality was measured, moderate, and friendly. It also fought a rear guard action against the “wimp factor” by making sure a steady supply of foreign corpses could be hauled out for display. Under this cover has come perhaps the most openly mean spirited and outright vicious administration in history. But like the uncanny, it is air brushed and photoshopped out.

Into the public sphere rode new public intellectuals, such as Nial Fergusson on the right, to replace the vulgarity of Ann Coulter or John Bolton, and on the left, Slavoj Zizek. The reason I take pains to discuss Zizek is because he is to philosophy what Obama is to politics. By which I mean, Zizek through simple mechanisms of logic, positions himself as a contrarian thinker. In fact he is a rather horrid racist reactionary and once one sifts through enough of his material, at bottom is simply empty racialist propaganda, but through which his mostly male college age followers are given permission to indulge in the most egrigious bigotry and surpremicist propaganda.

Brand Zizek is, on the cultural front, going to talk about Hitchcock, who I’m not even sure he has actually watched, while really saving his greatest enthusiasm for fascist junk like The 300, or Hitman.

Brand Obama allows, as Glen Ford points out,

“Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil.
He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.
That was always Wall Street’s expectation of Obama, and his promise to them. That’s why they gave him far more money in 2008 than they gave John McCain. They were buying Obama futures on the electoral political market – and they made out like bandits.”

Exactly. Risk management. The Obama hedge fund.

Liberals may want shake in fear that Romney will privitize social security or do away with Medicare. Well, Obama will do the same thing, but the narrative wont include it. Its off screen. From Clinton on the resdistribution of wealth has trended toward the top 1% while opening ever further financial speculation without risk of default. Stimulate consumption, but only by the very rich. The very rich therefore come to be idealizations in the new subjectivity. Identification. And so 42% of American households spend more each month than they earn. We are just like those affluent lawyers on The Good Wife. We are like the Huxtable household.

But the creators of these fictions are far from perfect, and the return of the repressed is a fact. The entire police and authority apparatus and system is fueled by paranoia. The crowds are scary, still. From the clown show of airport security, to the ketteling of protesters, and subsequent tasering, the police have ramped up repression while exhibiting a high degree of panic. The narrative for control is reiterated constantly, and yet its not holding. Homleand Security, whose very name conjurs up images of black shirted goose stepping fascists, has morphed into a giangantic dysfunctional and highly costly albatross for the federal government. Still, the spatializing of authority and its fears is finding new expression in a collective instinct for surrounding the people of risk. The drum beat of patriotism has never been louder, and yet it rings hollow more and more often as police shoot yet another unarmed teenager, or taser a man to death, or as more and more accounts of abuse at privitized prisons come to the fore. The DNC has been an exercise less in jingosim (though there has plenty of that) and more in creating a sustainable brand of maturity and balance.

And these political brands and economic brands will in turn find expression in studio film and TV. And there is, not surprisingly, less and less actual narrative and instead more and more abstract marketing. “Lifestyles” is all one really gets from Oprah or The View. There is less and less narrative in narrative films. As there is less and less concrete policy and fewer and fewer ideas in political theatre.

What is really going on, in a sense, is a form of hegemony. The terms of discourse are more narrowly defined than ever before by the state. So that within the frame of state hegemony, what is “possible” is clearly very limited. I dont like Obama, someone will say, but I dont want Romney. Obama is all that is possible. If you want to participate, you want a role in the “movie” that is your life, then you have to do what is possible. To vote for Jill Stein, say, means “wasting” a vote. And you are then not in the game. You are on the sidelines, or even back in the locker room. You are barely an extra on the set.

Morality is erased as a topic. Moral courage is defined in the most sentimental kitsch terms possible. In fact courage is usually presented sans the moral qualifier. But more often courage is seen as “unreasonable” and “unrealistic”. The hegemon creates the space for participation, and participation means “voting” for one or another millionaire. To withold any vote on principle, is seen as “wasting” the vote, squandering your chance to be an extra.

Now, there are other narratives lurking in the wings (sic). And this is because the system cannot ever really erase all history. John Frankenheimer’s 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate, based on the Richard Conden novel, about a deep cover brainwashed operative of the communists who will orchestrate an assasination and disrupt US elections continues to fascinate people. The film has taken on iconic status; the term, the title, is shorthand for vague undefined conspiracy theories. However, one of the reasons for the film’s durability is that the themes resonate because of the imminent paranoia of this culture, much as Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 remains a minor classic. We all look at mailboxes (while they last) a bit differently since that book, and a triggering of suspicion occurs. Its interesting in a side bar sort of way, to look at later political thrillers…..3 Days of the Condor, or The Parralax View, to see a more bourgeois flattening of the world. The films themselves contain intense paranoia, but the system, especially in the Sidney Pollack film, is much closer to a world embraced a bit later by Speilberg and television. Manchurian Candidate retains the shadow (for Americans) of the “communist threat” — and all the unconscious stand ins for our own personal trauma and repression find expression in this. It is a stark pre-mediated film, it retains the uncanny.

The Manchurian Candidate, 1962

Jonathan Beller has said psychoanalysis has always been film theory. Certainly, there is at least residual truth in this statement. And to what degree that truth holds, the durability of certain filmic tropes makes a good deal of sense. The unconscious, (back to Nava’s essay) is likely, reflexively being scrubbed out of most narrative and film today, because, again reflexively it is that which causes the eruption of disquiet and doubt. There is no dream in the DNC — for all the talk about exactly that. There is no dream work, for there is no space in which dreams might operate. The timeless anarchic dimension of dreamwork threatens the hegemon. The political fiction being played out also defines itself via personality, and defines the acceptable forms for personality. Chavez is a “strongman” or thug, while any American politician is defined as a product of civilization. The binary of civilized and barbaric is a colonial holdover repackaged and re-branded as new political thought by reactionary historicans of the Samuel Huntington variety. The uncivilized world is full of shadows and shadow networks and caves and crouching hooded figures. This is reproduced domestically in images of black teenagers in hoodies, in “ghettos”, or Latino youth who speak another language, and who eat different foods, and who also operate in shadowy barrios. That Mexico has always been , fiction, the shadow land to the south of the US only makes it easier to be so depicted today.

Voting must be realistic, must not be idealistic. Idealism is depicted in Hollywood as a youthful trip to Africa as part of the Peace Corps. Not something a grown up does, unless that grown up is deranged. Is a risk taker. Now, there remains a sexual charge to danger, and to transgression … and obviously to risk. And it tranfers from one theme or narrative to another, from one realm to another. A character whose youth was spent in the military learning “the secrets” of the other, navigating those shadowy worlds, but who returns to the stability and right of modern life, will carry with him or her an additional sexual charge. Such are paradoxes never completely solved by the hegemon.

The reaction to Obama in a large chunk of the white working class US speaks to the contradictions of these various narratives. This is where Zizek enters, as the leftist intellectual of the college circuit. For really, Zizek’s own form of barely concealed racism is simply a critical border beyond which an educated white middle class will not cross unless in the guise of contrarian cool that Brand Zizek is trying to sell (and in fact selling very well). The working class white audience who listens to FOX and Rush, are given permission for open racism and bigotry. Blacks, Hispanics, Faggots, Chinks, etc. Zizek does the exact same thing for the more affulent white audience.

Isabelle Everhardt

Now, the surplus aggression of U.S. society today is alarming, and these permission granting personalities, or brands, seem to play double roles. The far right has leaped in desperation at the demonizing of Obama’s background and race. Of course, behind this lurks the residual unconscious energy of 50s cold war paranoia. Its re-branded.

There are several other topics related, that perhaps I can get to soon. The unconscious in the processural — as it unfolds in story. As story. The performances in the Frankenheimer film, Laurence Harvey in particular, seem almost classical by today’s standards. Again the naturalistic criteria for good, the performance of the new subjectivity, is ascendent. Hitchcock is nothing that Zizek claims he is, and its part of this three card monty philosophy brand babble that helps to solidify the terms of bourgeoise debate. The bourgeoise loved Michelle Obama’s speech. One person said to me, oh I identified with her stuggle.

The reality of U.S. foreign policy is the first erasure. Global war, mostly armed by the US, especially since Obama took office, does not fit with the narrative. Domestic police repression is ignored, mostly. The lingering disquiet of the privitized state (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) and the evolving nature of labor and of the economy, all serve to stimulate semi forgotten narratives, The Wild Boys, Hunger Games (the book), all it even echos in Isabella Eberhardt or T.E.Lawrence. Colonialism and orientalism, and its re-branding in the age of Obama. There is so much to think about. Politics and TV shows, the marketing campaigns of a state that is closing the parameters of experience, symbolically and materially.


  1. Screen Test, 2004 http://privacysos.org/node/808

  2. john steppling says:

    great molly. And just as more sort of background……….http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645089/

  3. there is some bullshit in the movie – like charles morris says whenb he was talking to his friend saying “the subprime tranches are selling twenty cents on the dollar” and says his broker friend says “we should bviy tghem!” and he saud “no no!”

    well that’s the hint of all these huge lies. because of course they lied about the subprimes tanking; they DIDNT tank on schedule. I was watvhing -2006 you started to see the biz press publish these bullshit planted articles that the cdos were illiquid. and i checked and they were liquid and the were not tanking. they were fine. Then the white house went into action to force them over but they never really did achieve it. Because these ppl plan well but they are nbot omnipotent. What we see are scmas that succeed but have imperfections and slip ups. So some of the 2008 hysteria had to be staged. And they had to force medium sized banks to tighten up their lmending by threats from the feds, from the white house itself.

    there is a dummheit that has been created that is really startling. PPL don’t really THINK. Like these speculative attacks on national treasuries. Hello? How come nobody is on the other side of those trades? These things have to be coordinarted on that scale and basically they are financial weapons atrtacking, financial weapoins that don’t have real bottom line accountability. Iceland, Greece are attacked by these giant financial weapons, not ordinary hedgefunds but huge blocks of capital stolen from the US treasury whose actions are coordinated by the deep state, the real leading bloc of the ruling class that also makes the national foreign policy.

  4. i mean because of course at those bargain basement prices people WOULD have bought them!

  5. http://www.democracynow.org/2008/9/29/is_this_the_united_states_congress

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, that’s exactly right. I mean, we need to be ready with plan B, which helps Wall Street restrain some of this bad conduct, which immediately, you know, puts — looks at some of the issues of liquidity that have to do with the policies of the Fed. We had a former head of the FDIC tell a group of congressmen yesterday that the Bush administration has been going around the last few weeks, actually, so tightening up on the practices of banks that they’re forcing them to have bigger reserves, which in a way would, you know, kind of create — help to create the kind of tight money policies that we’re saying we’re trying to alleviate with this bill. So, you know, there needs to be a deeper ______________________________

    I mean it was like the fucking anthrax. They lied about commerical paper panic too. When that was reported I called everyone I knew and not one person said there had been any problem with the financing. It’ was a lie. And a stupid one because the fed could have set up to buy the paper cheaper than what they did! and they didn’t even require anyone receiving the funds to buy paper. It was all bullshit and it got passed the left because everyone with assets from Krugman to Henwood was worried about the market whipping around (on a leash, you know, on a puppet string of plunge protection funds),w orried abvout their assets, and they lied to the left in a left guise and they attacked viciously and smeared anyone (like Naomi Klein) who suggested slow down, lets not be hasty, sky isnt falling, this is a stick let’s call their bluff and say well fix it yourselves, billionaires, or let the thing crash. Go on, pull the financial suicide belt key. You had all these supposedly left “economists” saying oh no there won’t be water! These scenarios so ridiculous people only believed because of years and years of watching movies where nothing is explained, where consequence follows generic requirements and emotional patterns and not any kind of real causality – so it only seemed natural that the television annoucement of catastrophe IS the cause, as it is the preamble in movies, and actually makes the thing blow up or the water disappear from the shelves of the supermarket etc.

  6. REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, that’s exactly right. I mean, we need to be ready with plan B, which helps Wall Street restrain some of this bad conduct, which immediately, you know, puts — looks at some of the issues of liquidity that have to do with the policies of the Fed. We had a former head of the FDIC tell a group of congressmen yesterday that the Bush administration has been going around the last few weeks, actually, so tightening up on the practices of banks that they’re forcing them to have bigger reserves, which in a way would, you know, kind of create — help to create the kind of tight money policies that we’re saying we’re trying to alleviate with this bill. So, you know, there needs to be a deeper look at this.
    It seems to me there’s a possibility that this crisis has a little bit of manufacture to it. And that really concerns me, because we haven’t had enough time to look at this in an in-depth way, to analyze the impact of it on the economy, to see if it’s going to do anything about a recession that we’re obviously headed into, to see if it’s going to handle the underlying concerns on Wall Street about the speculation and a lack of regulation. The bill doesn’t, by the way, address anything about the speculation, anything about the lack of regulation. The SEC has failed. The Fed has failed. And we’re essentially telling all the same actors, “Go for it. You know, here’s another opportunity,” except this time it’s with taxpayers’ money.

  7. It’s very simple: the leading bloc of the ruling class on wall street realized around 90 that they couldn(t stabilize the global system and that they were at risk. But they figured out they could knock it over themselves. It’s the whole strategy they have developed for everything thanks to developments in computing, telecom and risk analysis. They don’t need to micromanage; they don’t have those cybernetic fantasies of old fascism of controlling every detail of reality from a central point. They now have the tools to manipulate without dictating, to control in an invisible way; they can shake the world like a snow globe and then they can spin it like one of those centripetal toys. You don’t have to write a law that people have to take subprime mortgages. The capacities of social engineering are greatly improved – by imperial occupations and the destruction of epople’s capacities to resist (destruction of “regional powers”), by digital media, by surveillance, by slicing and dicing reality and bundling its various traits separately as securities (Beller understands this really well and explains it eloquently) .

  8. john steppling says:

    right, well, you have to always look at the outcome….now a couple years down the road. Consolidation, same guys in power, same system essentially………all that seems different are things related to some international currency transactions and Im not enough of an expert to even guess whats up.

    But yes, of course there is theatre to this, too. A manufactured hysteria. Thats the thing with economics, so much is like Higgs Boson….might be this, might be that…..speculation is like angels on the head of the ballpoint. They can rewrite the rules and the implications a lot of the time anyway. I was mostly just stunned to realize since bush 1, the SAME exact guys running policy, running the fed, the IMF, WB, all major financial institutions. And everyone, EVERYONE in obama’s administration…..is goldman sachs….not just summer and geithner but dianna ferrel and gensler, hormats, et al.

  9. my very long comment on zizek and obama as Golovinski cuckoos just vanished. So frustrating

  10. john steppling says:

    Thats exactly what he does….its always sort of disguised though. Not very well, really. But what I hate . in addition, is this sort of just jumbled ranting, like about vertigo, which is just obfuscation…..there is nothing there. What there is to be said about that film is simple enough … joe nava said it quite well…….and i just riffed for like two minutes…..but he mystifies it, and then sneaks in the faux paradoxes……which barely obscure his reactionary positions and not so hidden racism.

  11. John Steppling says:

    what zizek does is never really to support radical social movements….or the left. He always qualifies things, but because the brand is Brand Zizek the Marxist….he is assumed to be in favor of , say, Chavez or the Zapatistas. But he never says that. He says something very critical of anything leftist…and then qualifies it with these paradoxical comments…like oh, fight racism by being MORE racist. And then he will say by which I mean, more NOT racist….or something equally idiotic and meaningless. So the outcome is, really, sans Brand Zizek the Marxist, a highly Un marxist critique….he sides with the Imperialists, with globalization, with NATO. Down the line.

  12. Yes he seems inconsistent only if you believe this constant “as a radical Marxist I say…”

    He has one project – to disrupt, distract from, substitute for and subverty all challenges to US empire

    He’s not advancing anything; he’s often fascist but also often liberal. This doesn’t matter; he is defending the status quo, the current ruling class, against criticism and challenge. He ridicules and caricatures every real challenge; he promotes division; he tries to separate this fascist core, this white male downwardly mobile petty bourgeois youth, off from humanity and pump up their resentment, break their solidarity with the rest of humanity; redirect their anger at women, at poc…how well it works was evidenced by that facebook thread of Henwoods, with “lefties” even errupting in the demonization of French language as some sinister elitist tongue, like the Republican attacks on John Kerry.

    But he can be so flexible because his project is destructive only and he is championing those already in power.

    And yes, its all fog…just blabber, a facsimile of meaningful speech.

    And he inures people to this nonsense, this lack of sense, these kinds of con games, like when you are giving change and you’re counting, eight, nine, ten, then digress – when’s your birthday again 24? Right okay twenty five, twenty six…

    He says “yes, ethnic states, I am the last person to care about ethnicity but yes, ethnic states, if there are tensions why not? Yes, I don’t mean ethnic cleansing like ethnic cleansing just but yes why not move populations to reduce the tensions? For bvreathing room? Ayn Rand is disgusting but not stupid and isn’t she right? I think BP are disgusting but isn’t every company like this and isn’t Obama persecuting them? As a radical lefgtists I say I am not like this typical leftist who says yes screw them! No! I agree with the right wingers, as a radical leftist I say the left is ridiculous and worthless. It is the capitalists who are the true revolutionaries. I say this as a radical leftist…”

    His stupid “more racism”…his example itself, Yugoslavia, like in the 80s we told a lot of racist jokes and look how well it worked! By the end of the decade there was a civil war among ethnic separatists. But it’s not even coherent. He’s been saying this forever. Tell racist jokes because to not tell them is to hide your racism. But somehow flaunted racism, aggressive racism, is not racist, and he can’t conceive – or he wants to teach his White students to be unable t imagine – actually not feeling the need to insult and abuse every black person he/they meet. It’s all about talking to white people about how to deal with black people, constant restatement of this division, us and them. And that’s why all his fans are white racists posing as lefties and why they are so intensely defensive of him – it’s repression. They become enraged when the obvious is stated. Because they have repressed the awareness of their racist pleasure.

  13. What’s most interesting to me regarding these conventions is how we expect to be condescended. We expect empty language. Everyone. Nobody believes it, but people still get “inspired” by it. I suppose it’s no different than a revival or any other form of theatre. Goes back to what you said about Richard Pryor (perhaps there should be a whole post about him). Richard Pryor destroyed all of that, but unlike Zizek, he wasn’t too hip for the room, he was too compassionate for most people to take.

  14. john steppling says:

    @lex & molly.
    See, yeah, I think there are things in post modern existence which are simply structural …. the content is the delievery system itself, which delivers nothing. I mean thats such a perfect description of zizek. And he also is a product of the media age. Its a performance and its geared to the same pyschic ratios as the electronic distractions of the age. Most telling though is that he will say…oh, NATO bombed but would it have been better to have machetes? This wasnt a jungle…..

    there is always implications….jungles? Like…..Cuba? WHITE people are not living in jungles…..i mean Ive heard him say stuff almost exactly like that. Exactly. But he becomes less effective if there are more than two people in the room. HIs demand to be the center is out of whack a bit. That conference What is the Mahgreb, with Amir Samin…….its a telling video. But

    Lex, thats right about conventions. ” inspired anyway”……yeah…..because its a simulacra of emotion, of feeling. And thats been accepted. So far has real feeling been erased from politics. Look, conventions are places to rehabilitate reputations, we get that. Trot out Bill Clinton……and now he’s treated like a wise old sage. And journalists will describe him thus. The “new” post gonzo journalist is all gonzo minus the radical perspective and drugs. Minus the personalized…..because these guys are corporate. Its, they, are vetted by the corporations. So the convention is choreographed and scripted, and then they repair problems of perception…..but now, as you say, people are thrilled!! Oh my god, Michelle was killing it . I heard that phrase and read it on facebook, that very sentence, maybe six times. Why is that? There are echos to all these terms….and ancestors…….No Child Left Behind….the Marine Corps……and Killing It………definitive. Michelle was as banal and sentimental as its possible to be. Just utter utter banality. So young so in love, so in debt. Are you fucking kidding me? In a country of paralyzing poverty………..of despair……millions of houses foreclosed on……….and yet, she was Killing It. In her goody too shoes fucking pink dress. Prom night. It was sickening. And then the Prez……..who increasingly appears disinterested. He strikes me as a very cold, very damaged man. Emotionally dead……worse than any president i can think of. Bush was selfish, sadistic to a degree, and so priviliged that his world just didnt include the poor. Like his grotesque mother…..the crone, the wattle necked nasty old witch. Poor Georgie grew up with Papy and that mother…..WASP two scotch after dinner nastiness….hatred. Papy was CIA, bureaurocratic killer… But Obama seems in a way even more damaged. The way orphans can be so dead, so without response because of the absence of emotional response, they arent contactual at all. Thats just my perception. But clearly he said far less than he did four years ago. With an administration totally made of up of Clinton foreign policy hawks and Goldman Sachs criminals….the worst men in the entire country….these shallow predatory provincials. I mean these are the guys spend a grand for a hooker…take her out to “clubs”.-… ive always found that so telling. The woman is no different than the Rolex. No different. They know we all know she is bought. They WANT you to know she was purchased. Its all weird small dick syndrome, i swear. And provincialism. They are not sophisticated men. Larry Summers knows shit about anything except how to cook books and created derivitives.

  15. I’m wary of taking anything at all about trhe spectacle of Obama for reality. Maybe he’s really personally that calm, and the person is built on a base of reality, maybe it’s all an act and he’s really a volatile person. Who knows. We know this no drama Obama is the marketed image, and that all the clerks – like Simon Critchley – pitched in with their determination to psychoanalyze him, this image, this spectacle, to create accessories which testify to its reality, its humanity, its psychological depth – you might as well psychoanalyze Mr. Clean or the lucky charms leprechauns. Sarah Palin didn’t shoot moose either and George W Bush wasn’t unaware of the joke about the French having no word for entrepreneur. This is all scripted. The question for me is what’s the manipulation here – George Bush’s persona was meant to terrorize. To constantly hint to the liberal mainstream culture workers and culturally dominant class that we were in the hands of a completely sadistic cracker, that we were in Deliverance. Now Obama is the antidote, the saviour, the G-man from the Northwest not the local sherrif, a rational person, all rationality, all calculation, the only thing that protects us from Amerikkka and those Amerikkkans we the urbanites fear. Doug Henwood did the promo bringing the subtext to the surface: he said Obama kills instead of torturing. It’s like merciful efficiency not sadism. It’s not true of course but people like Henwood are the target audience for the propaganda; they get the message sent to them and disseminate it – it’s like money laundering except its message laundering.

  16. the PERSONA is built on the base of his real personality, that should say

  17. This whole thing the with right now stressing that Obama is “european” – and the left pundits help emplify this by going berserk – is Obama marketing. You know it’s supposed to reassure the liberals, the culture workers, the enfranchised, urban, professionals and clerks, ones who produce the ugc mainstream, that Obama is not of this Amerikkka, this monster that is scaring the shit out of everyone, designed to – designed to make the population go running to rthe Obamas – yes, the Cobsys, the Barletts, the loveable functional liberal (but traditional) tv family – for protection from these positively medieval sadistic maniacs.

  18. Paul Jay openly says he’s scared of Romney. He’s so scared he’d run to Obama for protection while acknowledging everything Ford said:


    Obama is European. Obama is civilized. Just think what would happen if these Republican freaks set the cultural tone.


    Don’t underestimate how much these Republicans scare people – scare women, scare gays, scare people of color. This is the programme floated with Schindler’s List, the paen to Clinton – “the list is life” – the alternative to life in the slave labour factory is torture and gassing. So the slave labour factory owner, who is repulsed by the gratuitous genocide, becomes the hero and saviour.

  19. john steppling says:

    All thats true. But Im still responding to what I glean behind the marketing. I mean you watch someone enough, eventually cracks appear. Its impossible for them not to. And under the marketed image lurks someone who seems very emotionally damaged. I just dont see much life behind those eyes. Now, that COULD all be marketed too I suppose. But one got a pretty good sense of the vicscious little prick that Bush Jr was….despite the cowboy drag…..i mean they tried………they made his bumbling charming, or tried to…..thats what marketers and PR people do, they work with what they have….and they fashion the desired image from these parts. Obama couldnt ever be a cowboy. Not even a fake cowboy. Same way bush couldnt ever be urbane and cool. Obama just strikes me as damaged. Maybe more than Bush. He’s not stupid — and its reasonable to assume Bush pretty much was…..but Obama is cold. I dont think thats marketing. They try to feed the public images of him with wife and his girls….and kissing babies and making jump shots………but it has started to feel less effective somehow.

  20. I don’t think you are watching Obama. Film of the Obamas is as staged and manipulated as any fictional television programme. Including the pic of him smoking.


    Zizek’s Nazism is so overt:


  21. Uch listen to him:

    Is this love for the dead neighbor really just Kierkegaard’s theo-logical idiosyncrasy? On a recent visit to San Francisco, whilelistening to a blues CD in a friend’s apartment, I unfortunatellyuttered a remark: “Judging by the color of her voice, the singeris definitely black. Strange, then, that she has such a Germansounding name – Nina.” Of course, I was immediately admon-ished for Political Incorrectness: one should not associatesomeone’s ethnic identity with a physical feature or a name, be-cause all this just bolsters racial cliches and prejudices. To myensuing query about how, then, one should identify ethnic be-longing, I got a clear and radical answer: in no way, by means of no particular feature, because every such identification is po-tentially oppressive in constraining a person to his or her par-ticular identity… is this not a perfect contemporary example of what Kierkegaard had in mind? One should love one’s neigh- bors (African-Americans, in this case) only insofar as they areimplicitly deprived of all their particular characteristics – in short,insofar as they are treated as already dead. What about lovingthem FOR the unique sharp-melancholic quality of their voices,FOR the amazing libidinal combinatorics of their names (theleader of the anti-racist movement in France two decades ago was named
    Harlem Desir
    !), that is to say, FOR the idiosyncrasyof their modes of

    Can people be foooled by this? When he is so blatantly asserting a steretotype against rhe reality – against the singer and her actual name, Nina – then saying that she doens’t have an “authentic” name to suitable to her ehtnicyt, and that to identify her actual name as inappropriate and to be loving thje authentic names she doesn’t have is the true anti-racism! Then later iof course for other audiences this very position he adopts of reimposing so absurdly a folklorizing and stereotyping “appreciation” for which he congratulates himself (and later this will become “I love how Aristide encouraged savage violence! ( of course after the overthrow. Not a word in favour of Aristide until after his kidnapping and permanent deposing.) ; This hick “oh those people can sing and dance and have such interesting names!” parading itself as “the real antiracism” as opposed to a despised politically correct colorblindness, is transformed as the successes of his reactionary white supremacist revanchist project accumulate.

  22. john steppling says:

    Of course Im watching him. Dont confuse performance with some idea that you have that nobody is there. There is always a performer. OF course its scripted. Of course its staged. Thats not the point. The point is, sometimes the most hackneyed actors reveal something. You seem to think that because its micro managed there is nothing to be learned about the person behind the mask. The re is a good deal to be revealed. This is why marketers are not perfect…..and why marketing campaigns often dont work like they should. Now in the case of US political marketing, I think the whole context is so artifical…..the entire and absolute totality of it so artifical….that I suspect many people have stopped knowing where it ends. Not just the public……but I remember bob dornan…I went out with his daughter once upon a time. Dornan was an old reactionary….but sort of the pre reagan variety. B1 Bob. And even he, after thirty some years in office, said, you know, there is genuine sense of unreality about being near the thing, near the institutions. I think guys like Biden are what they are…….i think biden, as an example, might well not know what is real and what is scripted anymore. Thats what is starting to become so unsettling. Its not just oh, its micro marketed and scripted. Because its been that for a while. And photo ops and pretend candid photos and all of it. Leaks…etc etc etc etc. Its that still, cracks appear. If one thinks otherwise, i might argue thats a false cynicism……….because different actors read the same lines differently. And some actors……..like Obama, start to unravel earlier than others. Clinton never unravlled at all. He is a anitromic projection I think. Obama is just a well groomed and well rehearsed ken doll. But even Ken Dolls have interiors.

    as for zizek………….disgusting. Yes .

    “Of course, I was immediately admon-ished for Political Incorrectness: one should not associatesomeone’s ethnic identity with a physical feature or a name, be-cause all this just bolsters racial cliches and prejudices. To myensuing query about how, then, one should identify ethnic be-longing, I got a clear and radical answer: in no way, by means of no particular feature, because every such identification is po-tentially oppressive in constraining a person to his or her par-ticular identity… is this not a perfect contemporary example of what Kierkegaard had in mind? One should love one’s neigh- bors (African-Americans, in this case) only insofar as they areimplicitly deprived of all their particular characteristics – in short,insofar as they are treated as already dead. ”

    what a great example of what we’re talking about. Its a false opposition….nobody is saying that. Who are ‘these people’…..who admonished him. Clearly nobody had. He just needs this prop to be able to say what he says. Which is racist. And he defuses and distracts the real arguments of racism. What real bigotry does and the class intersection. Oh, we should love them as dead. NONE OF THAT IS EVER SUGGESTED….not by anyone real for fuck sake. Where did that come from?

    But i guess a lot of people are fooled and honestly Im totally sure why. I am often surprised when someone I think smart, or who seems smart, will start in on how much they like Zizek. And i think……….what the fuck is wrong with you? How can you not see what this is.??

  23. john steppling says:

    I want to write something (Ive wanted to for a while) on this thing that started about twenty years ago….the “behind the scenes” of movie making. On the set with Ryan Gosling…..or, we is how we do this special effect….isnt that cool.

    That became something which accompanied almost every new studio release. And there is something in this: its like we want to reassure you there is no void out there……nothing to be hidden…..you see it all. Its all just tricks. All just clever special effects. And its a false inclusion, come on, get a special glimpse BEHIND THE SCENES……….there is something going on with that and I dont totally know what.

  24. “Dont confuse performance with some idea that you have that nobody is there. There is always a performer. OF course its scripted. Of course its staged. Thats not the point. The point is, sometimes the most hackneyed actors reveal something. ”

    Okay but this is the only role you’ve seen him play. You don’t know how good he is.

  25. I know someone is there but I have no way of knowing what I’m seeing. I mean, most of these people take valium or xanax or something when they perform. You don’t know that you are not seeing the flatness of some or other light sedative, or a deliberate affectation of calm, or makeup and editing. You can’t just interpret what you see in a television performance, especially one that costs as much as the President, which is more manipulated and expensive per second than a mercedes ad, as exactly what you would think encountering in life the sort of appearance that performance signals (and doesn’t in fact actually replicate, biut only suggests).

  26. “And i think……….what the fuck is wrong with you? How can you not see what this is.??”

    Yes that was my reaction for a long time but eventually I had to entertain they idea that these people know just what this is. And that’s why the love it. And of course they can’t admit it.

  27. I mean “we’re being unfair to Mengele”?????

    His audience gets a little quiet, but only because they’re nervous that some there may not be enjoying this. Once its clear everyone accept it, they laugh.

  28. john steppling says:

    Yeah, beta blockers. I mean i grant all that, but I still think one can make evaluations. They arent robots….not quite. And its in that tiny sliver that one looks.

    Yeah, i mean, the laughter is very weird with zizek. But Ive said for a while that today’s late capitalist laughter is one of hysteria.

  29. Vocalis Spiritum says:

    I’d like to offer something here, but honestly, there are just too many topics in this one thread. I would offer this for now- the modern theatre is eating its own tail. Very little of what it does today reflects or intellectually comments on ANY aspect of observable reality. The reason its dying (or on life support for the past 25 years, at least) is that its artistic directors, while extolling diversity, are actually the most single minded people out there. The narrative they are trying to create is a complete fantasy, and always has been. No, Virginia, women can’t do everything that a man can do; sorry, but equality has not existed nor will it ever exist in the whole history of mankind; the systematic killing of children and the feminist created sex trade probably aren’t the greatest ways to ensure your cultural survival. These are truths and despite the fact that these artistic directors may hate them and rage at them like Lear in the storm doesn’t make them any less true. The “real world” is convincing, and the human brain can only take so much cognitive dissonance before it either shuts down or is forced to accept reality. It seems as if theatre is perfectly content to stay in the entertainment realm, and to compete with its next greatest rival, video games, for the ultimate distraction award. It’s obviously not vital to anyone, and has nothing to contribute to critical thinking. At least not about anything important.

  30. Joanna Perry-Folino says:

    Commodifying one’s self. This actor was sued by Sony for looking too much like himself in another commercial.


  31. It really enlarged the problem although will do your karma good.

  32. ¿Sabes qué molaría? Hacerle la foto a Laika con el ! encima :$

Speak Your Mind


To Verify You\'re Human, Please Solve The Problem: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.