Fiction and Privacy

some brief notes:

The increase in police and military surveillance has been precipitious. But something of a blow back has occured….as electronic snooping has increased, CCTV cameras everywhere, wire taps, etc, so has the public gained access to cheap video cameras, and of course their cell phones. So police brutality, something which has always gone on, is now being filmed. The police want laws to stop you filming them. They want to curtail the very thing they (well the system) have pushed through as part of the today’s urban landscape. Suddenly they feel the loss of police privacy.

Now, another topic comes to mind, which is connected to the two previous postings, but I suppose also to notions of police powers. The media pushes along the value of these invasions of privacy — the media, the studios and networks, reflect the values of the people making the product. The world view is that of the creators of these films and shows. One aspect has been a subtle consolidation of cultural participants, and a narrowing of this view, often I suspect without the creators quite knowing it. The world created by the culture industry is ever more proscribed. I suspect this partly (only partly) explains the rise of comic book characters and fantasy.

A friend related a story — she works for a network in marketing. She told of a young pretty intern being interviewed in the bosses office. The intern was asked, do you like this particular show of ours. The intern answered, no, honestly, I’m not a big fan and here is why. Now the intern was nervous….for she was saying you know, I dont like this show … I might get fired. At the end of it the intern added, ‘of course I dont think I’m the audience they are targeting’.

Thats it. You are either the audience targeted or you are not.

However, I also saw Mammie Gummer is the lead in a new awful doctor show….Emily Owens MD. Now Gummer is the daughter of Meryl Streep and some east coast patrician (er…sculpter………ah……) and grew up in Conneticut and LA. So this show reflects one more time, the most kitsch vision of an air brushed world of ersatz problems, and liberal sensibilities. Even more than before though, such shows are formulated on the most simplisic, almost childish or infantile structures. In this show, Gummer is a doctor, an intern, at a Denver hospital. Her “med school rival ” also works there and her a young male intern who she had previously had a crush on. BOY….wowza….that sounds pretty scintillating. Gummer herself is this awful cheery, cutesy, well, just grating personality. But…my point is that nepotism has always existed, but its far more inclusive in a sense, than ever before. What I found last time I made the rounds in Hollywood, was that outsider’s are not welcome anymore. I once was the organ grinder’s monkey, a novetlty act. You could get a brief pass to tap dance in the halls of cultural power. You would get a gig or two, thrown some coins, tolerated for the brief shelf life of organ grinder’s monkeys, and then be gone. No more. The consolidation of economic power is relfected back in narrative; the cultural wagon circling — the TARGET audience is more specialized, and the world view more and more restricted. The worst shows and films that liberals do are those that they try to do the proletarian world view…the ghetto or barrio or even rural wastelands of the US. One can quickly think of many examples. The Blind Side, to whatever the latest ‘bubbie’ boilerplate might be, starring whatever black or chicano actor currently has heat — which is really the slaves adapting the voice of the plantation owner. It would be interesting to dissect the few examples of corporate product that actually depict something of working class existence and then see in what ways they are mediated.

The increasing difficulty of paying for a good education means only Streep’s daughter and her pals get to go to major universities. And the uni system is more and more balkanized anyway. Florida State is a huge school, but football players go there, or if you are majoring in hospitality management. You go to Yale or Harvard, or Sarah Lawrence or Stanford or wherever if your parents live in Conneticut and Beverly Hills. Hey, “sculpter” Don Gummer went to Yale….quelle surprise. Anyway, the point is that cultural balkanizing is happening at an accelerated pace. Exceptions obviously exist, but really, it only proves the point. The under-class is ever more skilled at adapting a version of their own reality that’s been mapped out by mass culture.

The white Conneticut families, the Bevery Hills kids, who grow up to become studio execs or whatever, are part of a marketing apparatus, whether they know it or not, which also appropriates the (what they would call) street culture. But this cultural enclosing is operating on a couple levels. It happens with “style”, and it happens with jargon, and slang, and more insidiously it happens as part of this erasure I speak of. It also appropriates adolescence. The marketers invade the previously private worlds of teenagers and even pre-teens, and burglarize this culture. Doesn’t matter really if its Red Bluff, CA, it Pensacola FL, or its suburban Chicago. Or inner city Philadelphia or Oakland. Appropriate, sterilize, and mass produce. Now, this has gone on for fifty years, but its now a process that excludes all others. Its hegemonic. The structure of appropriation itself, the mechanisms, and the thematic materials — the style codes, the grammar, is all absorbed and reproduced in this cleansed version. Where once an oppositional artistic vanguard served to critique, but also to explore and expand utopian dreams — as well as exercise an inventory of sorts for the psyche, today you have simply KITSCH. The oppositional has become oppositional code and oppositional style. In other words, NOT oppositional. Post Modernism in that sense is a by-product of marketing efficiency. However, as the mental enclosures keep bringing the fences closer (spatializing is just impossible to avoid…and its a problem because they are also extending the fences ever wider) the cycles of reproduction circulate more and more rapidly. As the “street” itself gets used up, the marketing apparatus starts to canniblize itself. Arts do this, and in a sense, the morbidity of academic arts programs and writing programs is both a result and a cause of this. The state surveillance system is worth writing about at length, but for right now, Homeland Security’s budget, per se, is pretty modest….however, the monies that pass through it are comparetively large. They go elsewhere. For neo-imperialism remains the primary focus of the state. (Widening the fences the better to tighten the mental enclosure…something like that). As I’ve said before, the financialization of the economy has a number of effects, and I don’t think it’s yet been determined just what the far reaching implications are.

The high pressure steam cleaning of the unconscious, or what the culture industry, de facto, thinks is the unconscious (for really, clearly, they don’t think in these terms) can be seen in any number of trends. I mentioned before the “take you behind the scenes of movie making” spots on gossip shows is just one example of the somewhat contradictory forces at work here. Erase the illusions by showing you the magician’s tricks, while constantly propping up more illusions. The derivitives market, the Wall Street crash of 2008, all of that was a form of of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The hand is quicker than the eye. Which cup is the pea under? So, in a sense, the mandate for artists at this point, it seems to me, is to reclaim a landscape not mediated, to establish methodology outside a system of commodities. Its almost the only strategy left. Thinking outside a commodity form is nearly impossible on one level, but there are demands to be made that would at least form a sort of bulwark against this. The creation of artworks designed to be commodity resistant is meaningless if the thinking still clings to notions of value based on exchange value.

The mediated world of daily life, now ever more influenced and shaped by mass cultural product, and mass cultural product ever more self consuming and curcumscribed, ever more a reflection, too, of economic theory, financialization, and of risk management; these are assaulted by ever more material instability, enviornmental and political — the contradictions are massive, and perhaps already at a point where desire and pleasure have been altered, malformed at their fundamental level (if that is even possible to identify)that the road to liberation from social domination probably lies on paths not yet found.

There is something in the post modern face that gives me pause. In the same way one can identify a French speaker, or a Russian, in a room, because the speaking of that language changes the facial muscles, and somehow imprints a ‘look’, the face of today’s western citizen seems to be synched up wrong — there is a surface patina as well, as if the cult of youth and the shifts in ideals of beauty have suffered a systems crash and people are left looking somehow neurologically stalled. They speak but the sound is almost literally delayed a nano-second, and the cunning (or lack of) of the marketers reaching ever further into a stockpile of autistic aesthetic models — the selling of product means you must minimize risk, must control ever more totally the picture, and the result is a sit com reality, and audiences, trained since birth, to channel their emotions toward commodities, willingly ask for this charade. Even the outlets for the inevitable surplus aggression are given targets. Obama, Zizek, the Koch Brothers….Goldman Sachs, the Pentagon, all of it is obviously sick and contagious, infected, and yet people ask for it.

Fictitious capital, fictitious work, and fictitious “reality”. The entrapement of consciousness in the commodity form will, eventually, end in fascism.

There is resistance. Its everywhere, but its NOT part of the spectacle. To ask people to give up their favorite commodity causes spasms of rage, fear, revolt, panic. Yet, that might be the first step needed.


  1. It’s a mind numbing spectacle is Hollywood and capitalism together and very interesting to see from the inside. Impossible to defeat except through building community based on honest and life sustaining values. A tricky proposition at best. Once again you have nailed the problems. And those nails are pounded into the coffin of celebrity and so called art. The reverberation is loud and clear.

  2. There was aways nepotism but there was also the interest in outlaw art. Now the extent of outlaw art (within these confines) is the studio execs rebellious child.

  3. Hospital is High School
    again the notes from the meeting, the subtext, just brought up and made into dialogue.
    Celebrating the infantilism of everyone. It’s not just sexist – though it is very sexist. And racist in its flaunting post-racial liberties (now we’re so post racial the black woman can be the villain, the mean girl, the one with all the power and cultural domination, and its just like she’s a black actor playing a white part;; this is antricaism signalling the spirit of Obama in asserting a substitute challenge to white supremacy as the assertion of the right of black people to belong to sadistic oppressive exploitative elites; asserting the equal right of black people to kill black people, in other words – its a human right to kill black people!) . It’s …proprietor species supremacist. And the supreme species is not represented as a character in the show. It is the author, the corporate creatives that bring you this mirror of your fantasies, this infantile world, telling you this bedtimes story to calm your anxioety…goo goo. gaga. doctor gaga. don’t you feel soothed? everyone’s as infantile and helpless as you feel. There is no adult authority, no citizenry, nothing so oppressive as responsibility, knowledge and production. It’s a fake “gynesis”, a fake subversion of Kildare and St Elsewhere and ER…House…that’s the sequence Dr. Competent, Dr. Harried and Bungling and struggling and noble…Dr. Rich and forgivably ruthless…Dr. antisocial aspy… and now Dr Gaga.

    Bridget Jones, Brainsurgeon.

    As feminist victory I suppose.

  4. “The high pressure steam cleaning of the unconscious, or what the culture industry, de facto, thinks is the unconscious (for really, clearly, they don’t think in these terms) can be seen in any number of trends.”

    Really worth looking back at Spivak’s talk at the big conference The Politics of Interpretation. Already she noted how the term “unconscious” was being used to mean content that was simply not conscious – that it no longer described what Freud described (and not only Freud, but Freud most suitably to bourgeois individualism) as a realm of motivating impulses that determine conscious condiuct and behaviour. Spivak noted how “unconscious” was being used by American academics as a substitute for “ideology”, (ideology in the sense of the common sense Gramsci discussed). She noted too how ideology cannot be discussed as an unexplained quasi supernatural element of some universal ambiance, but has to be understood as characterising and creating groups of people

  5. john steppling says:

    Yeah, thats exactly what i was suggesting with the underclass adapting to the vision pre-mapped by the corporate run system. Everyone is playing a role of white person –and its reference point is white surpremicism. Thats the backdrop…but its actually even narrower than that I think. But add to that the infantile. Its high school…..not even….jr high school. So the black girl plays a white girl of privilege, and Gummer plays an infant…a toddler. Perfect. And so the white supremisicst isnt a character …..right….its the world created. The world is a white world of supreme white beings, who have let a few black people in if they can play the role of white person well enough. Pryor run out of town. Cosby embraced. And this white world has not real problems. It has nothing that cant be fixed ……with a little common sense. The biggest issue is she is spazy when the boy she “likes” puts his arm around her. Thats the problem.

    Calling dr gummer line six……stat…………….cardiac arrest……
    oh…Im spazzy…….eeech……darn…….ok………lets go fix that almost dead person. We are white saviors.

    as for the unconscious. Right…….but that Freudian unc was gotten rid of about sixty years ago in the US. From that first generation of psychoanlysts onward…with rare exceptions, the Unc becamse” not being thought about”. And psychoanlysis became adjustment therapy, and a discipline of the ego. I guess it s also pavlovian. Edward Bernays sort of treated the Unc. the most seriously. Why he was successful. But by the time a therapy culture had emerged in the 70s, the prevailing belief was that there was no unc. I remember reading a NYTimes op ed that knocked freud, and the writers said, look, its nonesense, I ve never thought about fucking my mother.

    There it is……….yeah, I think this is a significant point Molly. Right…..the way ideology entered without being called that, and the Id left without saying goodbye. Russell jacboy’s book Social Amnesia is really good on this. The de politicizng of freud. The idea that things we are out of touch with might be forces for which we have no control….and which are shaped historically as well……or partially shaped….that was erased. And see, Zizek is doing for Lacan what Werner Erhard or Sullivan did for Freud.

  6. john steppling says:

    “this is antricaism signalling the spirit of Obama in asserting a substitute challenge to white supremacy as the assertion of the right of black people to belong to sadistic oppressive exploitative elites; asserting the equal right of black people to kill black people, in other words – its a human right to kill black people!) . ”

    yeah…..splendid. Exactly.

  7. Mamie Gummer? John, are you freaking kidding me…? What can we expect for an actress named Mamie Gummer. The name conjures up not a woman but a baby girl with no teeth, goo goo gaa gaa. I want to warm up her baba and burp her. What is it about television – especially shows on the CW – that insist on extending the high school mentality into adulthood? Grey’s Anatomy already did this – and this show seems like a cheap super-dumbed down version of it. At least on Grey’s the doctors fucked – everywhere – but here I get the feeling that these people skipped right over puberty. This neutralizing of sexuality and race is dangerous but becoming the trend in TV.

    Another great point you make is the nepotism. The show “Girls” on HBO is deeply guilty of this, the cast consisting of the daughters of David Mamet and Brian Williams. Gee, I wonder how they broke into the business (that said, I think Zosia Mamet is actually an interesting actress).

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