Colonizing Consciousness

Jerry Mander wrote a book many years ago, in 1977, called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Televsion. He worked in marketing for years before that. He recently wrote a piece for Monthly Review…

This is, obviously, a topic I come back to from many angles all the time. The colonizing of consciousness.

Now, Mander is right, but he doesn’t take this nearly far enough, for their are structural elements that mediate experience on even deeper levels than he suggests.

From an interview on globalization with Mander and Scott London:

London: I was working in the north of Norway in the mid-1980s. At the time, the Norwegian government was installing new satellite TV services and making them available to people in their homes. The town I was working in had a very vibrant local art and music scene. But almost overnight the people started picking up new stations like MTV and CNN. The effect on the young people was extraordinary. I got to see at first hand how the local scene was supplanted by the influx of foreign TV shows, pop videos, and global marketing. This the kind of “monoculture” you are talking about, I take it.

Mander: You put it very well. That’s one. But there are others, and the others may be more important. Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, in particular, have written about the agricultural monoculture that is upon us now. Because of the global market, the varieties of produce that people used to grow is no longer available. In Peru and Chile, for example, there are hundreds of varieties of indigenous potatoes. People used to grow them and protect the seeds so they could pass them on to the next generation so that there was tremendous variety of potatoes. But now, with the export economy taking over everywhere in the world, you don’t grow a hundred varieties of potatoes anymore. Now you grow one kind of potato, or maybe two, because that is what is going to get exported to England, or that is what is going to be exported somewhere else.

Again, these are pretty obvious effects. You can walk into a pensione in Rajisthan in some small town, and find the kitchen staff watching MTV or Baywatch, and you wonder, how is this being processed? Look at pop music, and the fashion that follows. Kids in Lagos or Bangkok wearing Chicago Bulls caps, or Brooklyn Nets jerseys. Nobody plays basketball in Bangkok. But this is all obvious stuff, what is less obvious are the ways structural forms get embedded. And one of those is the idea of being a “fan”. People relate to product as fans. I like so and so, and I didn’t like so and so. In what way is this *like* expressed, or rather, what are the paremeters of *like*? What is enclosed within that?

“If you decide to watch television, then there’s no choice but to accept the stream of electronic images as it comes,” Mander says. “Since there is no way to stop the images, one merely gives over to them. More than this, one has to clear all channels of reception to allow them in more cleanly. Thinking only gets in the way.”

Other people’s vision is occupying your mind, they occupy and don’t pay rent. In fact, YOU pay rent. One of the amazing things about sales today is that people are asked to pay a price to, say, read a sports page. Once you do that, on an internet site, you go to read this article and you are faced with six different pop ups or drops, all advertising things. So you have paid to see more advertising. Or parking lots at shopping malls, where you must pay to park. You must pay to go and spend money inside.

So the fan is responding to product. That’s all. I like this product better than that one. I like Ranch Style Beans better than BarBQ Beans. Now, the smarter young viewer or consumer will elevate his or her taste. They may like aesthetically more sophisticated product. And here we have a dilemma. For the aesthetic appreciation, the disciminating choice, becomes eclipsed by the paid for *fan*, for the fan can only relate to this hierarchical marketed forum. Everything is on a mental shelf in a mental department store.

The intelligence of discimination is appopriated by the marketer. The world as marketplace, corporate marketplace. I have been reminded this week, in several different ways, of how artworks are co-opted, and how the last remnants of modernism continue, partly because nothing is there to replace them. All that is left is marketing.

“If forty million people see a commercial for a car, then forty million people have a car commercial in their heads, all at the same time. This is bound to have more beneficial effect on the commodity system than if, at that moment, all those people were thinking separate thoughts which, in some cases, might not be about commodities at all.”
Jerry Mander

This election period has revealed , very starkly, as none before, the sonambulistic trance of the modern US citizen. The rote behaviors, and the rote feelings. If people have internalized corporate kitsch image and narrative, and we know they have, then that includes gesture and emotion in some way. The attachment to favorite brands is all the same; brand Obama is the same as Brand Clearasil or Brand Toyota, or Brand Jay-Z. The sleepwalking trope raises its head over and over and over. For people, the young have been encouraged (by marketers) to form a brand of independent self. To create, from corporate parts, a unique self. It is all found material. It is all living only within an enclosed virtual world of commodity relation.

The aesthetic independence required for a radical vision to coalesce, especially to coalesce around a core group, has been neutered in large measure by the creation of an oppositonal marketed owner of artistic opinion. The young consumer, the discriminating consumer of smart products of culture.

*I love the new Coen Brothers film…”, or “I love the new david lynch film”, or “I love donnie darko”….etc. The more decontexualized the cultural product, the more de-politicized, the easier to own and *like*. One can even *like* acceptable political product, marketed politics. “I loved that new film about the inner city school teacher who helps her class….”, “Oh I saw that two years ago on Breaking Bad”.

The new “independent” consumer. You can create your own lifestyle, your own brand. Part of the brand is not just what products you buy, but what sense of marketing you prefer. It is horribly insidious. It is a strange sort of Borges-like drama played out amid a landscape that isn’t real.

So, even the smartest most sensitive young artist, or lover of art, is going to face the ideological hegemony of corporate media. Within that enclosure is film and TV and a good deal of internet. It also includes corporate news. Now, all this is very conscious and methodical. There are rewards for *liking* things. There are condemnations for not participating in these arranged talent shows, these pre-fabricated set of choices. So that even when something is created, and this is quite possible, is produced within this corporate hegemony, but contains something that reaches beyond its perhaps intended branding, or contains somehow, by accident or subterfuge, elements of the sacred and the transcendent or the subversive, the engagement with this ostensible product is mediated by the form of domination that is already firmly in place. This leads to questions (which I’ve raised before) about the nature of identity, and the historical evolution of the bourgeois idea of the individual. There is also at work the second generation of the camp aeshtetic. The elitist appreciation of junk, in other words. The famous Sontag essay Notes on Camp established the foundational principles of this. A love of the artifical, of exaggeration, but more importantly it established a private code, an almost secret insider appreciation of naive awfulness. This has evolved over time, again due to marketing’s appropriation of this counter aesthetic, and it now infects all aesthetic thought in one way or another.

Sontag said this: “The reason for the flourishing of the aristocratic posture among homosexuals also seems to parallel the Jewish case. For every sensibility is self-serving to the group that promotes it. Jewish liberalism is a gesture of self-legitimization. So is Camp taste, which definitely has something propagandistic about it. Needless to say, the propaganda operates in exactly the opposite direction. The Jews pinned their hopes for integrating into modern society on promoting the moral sense. Homosexuals have pinned their integration into society on promoting the aesthetic sense. Camp is a solvent of morality. It neutralizes moral indignation, sponsors playfulness.”

But what was, at least partially, a political critique buried in all this, has given way to the homogenizing efforts of marketing, and the selling of ‘its good ’cause its bad’. Camp also started the trend toward putting almost everyhing in quotation marks. Post modernism used a good deal of this sensibility in a sort of fractured effort to promote a populist sensibility. The problem, again, was hegemony of corporate ownership. As Mander says, no industry is as contracted as media. Globally, the new seven sisters are the media conglomerates.

Style is artifice. Unfortunately, artifice is owned. Its corporate owned. Of course its not totally, and that’s the key. And one sees this with marketing firms sending scouts out to scour the streets looking for the latest organic trend of the underclass. The suburban co-option is the first tier here, where whats left of the white middle class buys that which has been created by the underclass. Those most outside a buyers demographic are always going to be the most creative.

Sontag mentions Jean Genet in passing. She says the camp elements in his novels are expressed too grimly, and the writing too successful, to qualify as camp. This is an important note. Genet has not been packaged and sold yet. Neither has Beckett or Pinter. Beckett’s image, like Che, is teetering on the border of co-option, but not his work. Its not fun, in the end. It is within the arena of things that are not fun, that liberation probably resides. If Kott is correct that tragedy has become the grotesque, then the map of what is possible in artworks gets a little clearer.

Sontag: “The peculiar relation between Camp taste and homosexuality has to be explained. While it’s not true that Camp taste is homosexual taste, there is no doubt a peculiar affinity and overlap. Not all liberals are Jews, but Jews have shown a peculiar affinity for liberal and reformist causes. So, not all homosexuals have Camp taste. But homosexuals, by and large, constitute the vanguard — and the most articulate audience — of Camp. (The analogy is not frivolously chosen. Jews and homosexuals are the outstanding creative minorities in contemporary urban culture. Creative, that is, in the truest sense: they are creators of sensibilities. The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony.)”

I’m not sure this is any longer true. For one thing, marketing arrived. And the commodification of gay taste (if one can even say that). I no longer think the gay community creates sensibilites, but rather recycles an earlier form of subversive, now blantantly reactionary in most respects. The critique became its own hegemony in a sense. But only in a sense. That which has been commodified is by default reactionary. It is in the service of reinforcing the status quo. But again, one runs smack up against the Borgesian maze of cause and effect, and the errosion of real experience. The outsider is now, at least in part, an insider.

All this is to point out that camp has morphed into something else, much as tragedy has. A filmmaker and theatre director like Jodorowsky whose films twenty years ago, seemed like failed and portentious exercises in a kind of feeding on the corpse of surrealism, today take on a more interesting sense of outsider sensibility.

It may be that Jodorowsky’s seriousness of ambition has redeemed his work, and made it unsuitable for marketing. When there is nothing to sell, the artwork will emerge as other than it was intended. Whatever one makes of Jodorowsky’s mysticism, the films today look far better than they did thirty or even twenty years ago.

I have written of the uncanny, and how systematically these instabilities are erased, when possible, by corporate media. But we have reached the cultural tipping point, now. The ever faster turnaround of products and style has left narrative itself so truncated and attentuated that it can barely be called narrative anymore. The formulas have been repeated millions of times, literally. When one considers the most resistant artworks, at least in film, names like Pasolini, and Fassbinder come to mind immediatley, but also more recently Audiard, Dumont and Haneke. But not that many more.

It is why theatre, somehow, feels on the precipice of relevancy again. How that happens remains to be discovered.

But theatre is still based on relationship with a present audience. The audience is THERE, in the room. One of the problems in generating audiences for small theatres is exactly related to this; its easier to stay home and watch TV. Or watch TV on the internet. Theatre resists that control that has been exercised so completely on other mediums. There are myriad strategies for film and TV though, but the first step is going to always be finding a way to finance without corporate ownership. This is all painfully obvious I know.

If Mander is basically right, if consciousness is privatized, if everything, including ourselves, is for sale, then the collective has to be turned away from the spectacle somehow. This presidential election will be remembered at the final stage of an Orwellian project that began in the 1960s. The ideological mediation of cultural product is complete. We live in a strange distanced reality of pixels and screens. A highly inorganic reality of globalized commodification. A population that will now murder for their favorite brand, while accepting drone terror and mass incarcertaion. Change the channel. Oh, that’s better, American Idol. Our lives, our desire, is projected on the screen of our unconscious. But its never perfect. It can’t be. Our personal Oedipal drama still plays out. History has been erased or revised, but it still shaped us, and our very language is part of this personal narrative. The split self, the hollow men….bourgeois identity, none of that just disappears. There have to be cracks, there have to be fissures in the edifice of the corporate reality show.

The poetics of all systems are the great subversive element. Donne, Shakespeare, Hart Crane or James Wright…Vallejo, Lorca, Trakl, and Webern and Bartok. And on and on. Francis Bacon and Pasolini…the plays of Pinter and Peter Handke. The poetics can be labeled as the sacred or the ritualistic, or the mystical. They are no doubt all those things. They are also truthful. For resistance in culture is the truth.


  1. Stan West says:

    You are writing ideas that can and should change peoples’ lives. Thank you.

  2. Lots I cant write on my phone…great post….so much to respond to.. but have to say just egad what a racist freak Sontag was.. the outstanding creative minorities in american culture don’t lead with African Americans but are Jews and gays? What a thing for a gay Jew to say. The essay is very problematic to say the least.

    But about the colonizing…yes its not only the images…amazing his popular the Jameson slight misquote is about ‘easier to imagine the DND of the world than the DND of capitalism’ is accepted as sensible although all it really observes is its easier to rember movies you saw showing apocalypse than movies about successful social transformation to non capitalist order….Also ‘mean dorld’ and credulity and short memory of lack of rational historical sense ….incapacity to judge plausibility and likelihood leading to attitudes like sgiblitz that shock doctrine posits too much strategy and purpose Nd too little fumbling and coincidence. This is also the mentality abusers cultivate in the abused. Gas lighting. Just because the ruling class crushed every revolt with torture and terror doesn’t mean they systematically oppose revolt with these proven methods. Every day is square one. Every sunrise is a little shocking.

  3. uch!!! Like Joseph Stiglitz …on shock doctrine. End not DND, etc.

  4. Teevee infantilizes. It interferes with the ability to LEARN. It abolished adulthood. Despair some flaws of uncritically accepted patriarchy etc _Within the Context of No Context _ by George W.S. Trow remains a very useful book.

  5. Alohja John
    enjoyed the article on Colonising Consciousness immensely.

    You mentioned in your previous missive..I think it was your random notes on theatre about the style of modern filmmaking…the way fast edits, jump cuts and high octane narrative are there to shore up any gaps, pauses or silences as a way to deny the individual the time for musing, mulling, dreaming or just the simple ability of allowing the subconscious to operate..My first question is:-
    .Do you think this a conscious corporate decion to dumb us down en masse and make us docile consumers grazing on our popcorn and ingesting whatever Hollywood throws at us without question.

    My second question to you is slightly related to the first but i’d be greatly interested on your take..I live in the U.K and we a currently in the grip of a kind of James Bond fever (generated by a blanket of ad’s on t.v, billboards, etc) A new film Skyfall is due out soon…the UK tourist board are using Daniel Craig’s image as 007 to promote the country…Adele singing the theme song blares from every speaker….the Queen supported him in the Olympics Opening Ceremony…yada yada yada…We can’t seem to escape it anywhere…What’s the deal with him from your POV?

  6. Wow, John. This is a fantastic, important article. Thank you. Paraphrasing: “Other people’s visions are occupying your mind and you pay for it.” That’s why I’m going through a trial separation with Facebook– I have already finished 3/4 of an audiobook in in a couple of days. Ha!

  7. john steppling says:

    @molly……..yeah, I really want to re-examine the sontag. She is HIGHLY problematic (as we learned from her positions on the balkans) but the camp essay had enormous influence and is worthy of looking at now. Its wrong in a lot of ways, but it was also, at the time, a certain kind of correction. But the more you look into what she’s saying, the more wrong it becomes. So yes, more to follow on that topic.

    I dont think its conscious, i dont think it has to be, per se. I think though what you described, cogently, is exactly right. This is just the by-product of marketing techniques ….they were applied to narrative. Its also something else……..which is, partly economic and partly cultural. The economic is that its just easier and less expensive to shoot in available light, to not have to shoot elaborate sets up and light interiors in the way a Siodmak or Ophuls used to. Or lang, or even low budget guys like Val Lewton………those films were composed. There was an aesthetic learning at work in the framing. Sometimes you look at The Killers for example, and it looks like Caravaggio. Today things look like dental clinic ads. There is no aeshtetic, its not part of the process at all. I remember when Crash won the oscar for best film………an uglier film would be hard to imagine. Hurt Locker comes close though. Its a complicated topic……….the rise of a kitsch aesthetic in a way, which is an anti aesthetic. But i do think that the attention deficit editing is there to do exactly what you say. The mimetic renarrating, the dream work, is stopped……..and it also erases place. The Bourne Cornflake, or whatever those were called……that editing essentially erased location and place. I dont know why they bothered to go on location.

  8. yeah there’s a direct line from those notes on camp to the moral seriousness and aesthetic ludicity of the Gay Jewish NY Intello staging Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo. And all that er Concentration Camp Camp. She just didn’t in her moral seriousness see anything in the US government’s conduct anywhere – in Haiti or Nicaragua, say, in Afghanistan – that might have justified that kind of emphatic contest. But tnhat was after she had gotten so rich. She’s a demonstration, she is! Beause once she asked Noam Chomsky whether “we” (“the left”) were going to be violent to stop the US attacks on Vietnam.

    She was the only woman mentioned at that inaugural post-structuralist event in Johns Hopskins in 66…”Miss Sontag” said those radicals, those daring ultra radicals. (Jan Kott was there though and ribbed Lacan a bit) And I liked _the Volcano Lover_

    But …television, mass media. This is why I always push to distinguish between the media — because audfivisual entertainment commopdities are totalitarian, as Pasoliniu said. For many years broadcasters dreamy of interactive tv…Turner did an experimen,t I think as early as the 70s. Rhode Island? Somewhere like that. Nobody wants interactive tv. TV watching is passive. That”‘s the pleasure. It’s absolutely passive. And the fact that this is a little accusation is behind audience’s readiness to pretend they are being educated, therapeutically treated, and actually doing revolutionary subversion as television viewing. Because there has always had to be some excuse (I only watch PBS has trasnformed into I only watch shows pirated as the guilt of zoning out before the boob tube has been transformed into the guilt of violunteering attentrons)

    People rationalise their television viewing with r(esilient intesity. Why? And nothing angers young culture workers and hipsters more than the slightest huint that their favourite entertainments will be taken away, the slightest judgement on theitr watching. And here comes camp too – the need to insist that they’re ironic and so^phiosticated. Not fooled.

    That need ebcame the marketing core of Mickelodeon, the ads by Thomas Hill for rerungs of Mary Tymer Moore,; Donna Reed,, Brady Bunch. The ads said “don’t worry, we know you”‘re not fooled. We don’t think you’re our dupe. We know you dont take this seriously like the idiots.” Then this tone, of the Nickelodeon ads for (not so bad looking now) crap tv became the tone of the crap tv itself (Rhoda became Girls).; So the tv is paying a lot of attention to the disavowals and rationalisations of the audience.

    But really, I have tried again and again to suggest a boycott of tv just ubntil a withdrawal from iraq. People **immediately** tell you why its pointless. The reaction is *immediate* and “passionate**/ NO! NO! The TV is not to blame! My love of the tv is innocent and pure!!! WHy punishh me! Why punish Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin! They’re not the enemy – al Qaeda and the fascist skinheads in Greece are!!!!!!

    It’s like a dog at the bowl. Nobody thinks it would be even worth trying. This sacrifice is too high even for such a goal. Not worth trying.

    Why? Why this INTENSE attachment? It’s the opposite opf the put on irony and distance and part camp that the wired culture worker and hipster class adopts and presents as its own.

    kwaliteeveee…all this blabber about how it’s the leading art form, its where the great narratives are, the brilliant drama, the great writing…the Sopranos, Deadwood, True Blood…shit this stuff is SHIT. It’ is just potato chips. It is empty cultural calories, prods and gratifications, poking and stroking, titilation and the massaging of the fears and rreactions which accord with reactionary ideology.

    It’s crap!: Some is better craft crap that other stuff – ibut the quiality scarcely varies, peopple think there’s a variation because niuche targeting has improved so people see the crap targeted at them (say Breaking Bad or Sex and the City) is brilliant and the crap targeted at someone emlse (Sex and the City and Breaking Bad) is the worst stinky doo doo/.

    So why?

    What is the secret?

    We know watching provokes a little trance.

    We know screens make the brain work to put the picture together.

    But…why the loyalty and devotion? It has become like a religion — like politics and religion one couldnt discuss at the American dinner table, now one must never insult a show by criticizing it as that might be taken as a slight “to the fans”.

    The most devoted lover of the Rollign Stones or Kandinsky or Jane Austen (and the “fans” of the latter do resent criticism) exhibit nothing like the identification of the tv watchers, a readiness for censorship of critics, accusations of bringing harm to the audience by threatening their pleasure or perhaps even interfering with the profitability of the show. Sinful.

  9. Chaos, C ontrol from Six Degrees of Seperation:

  10. John Steppling says:

    Well, I think the identification needs to be dissected, for sure. Its not simple identification……as its usually thought of. Its not oh i wish i were like so and so in this show. Its an identification with a lifestyle branding. The ownership of this brand is part of who I am. Im someone who thinks Breaking Bad is way better than Sopranos. And who I am is reflected in this choice or preference. And its not as simple as buying a Prius or a Maserati as an expression of who I am. Thats one dimensional. This is much more complex. Partly because hundreds of thousands of people SHARE ownership……..its a new false collective. I own a Maserati and part of what makes that *cool* is that not many people can own a maserati. Or a gold IWC watch……..or whatever. That was a status symbol of conspicuous consumption. The identification with a show operates in several registers. One is personal, where one can own a certain aspect, or character but thats a minor key…….the bigger consumption and ownership is about this elevation of junk….the Camp thing as its evolved………this elevated aesthetic appreciation of a Brand. I mean the difference of course is in this false collectivity. My appreciation is what makes me different than all those people who watch Dancing with the Stars or Housewives of Atlanta. And I dont think people addicted to Housewives of Atlanta quite have this reaction. They just accept the junk and love it and might defend it, but the prestige product is now an emblam of specialness………..and within this one finds all the levels of irony. Ive thought the last few years that new term is needed for irony. A post ironic term……..for irony has become something else. We’ve had too many death of irony moments. So if someone loves True Blood…… this way, owns their liking of it, it means they belong to a special club of rarified taste, for taste, real taste, has been obliterated. The fact that its mostly just junk, tricked out with different style codes, doesnt change the fact its junk. Its as if this is where the real class warfare takes place… virtual space………..the sense of privilge is allowed if its filtered through a lens of prestige product. And there are mediating factors in all this. I might argue, for example, that McGovern’s first season of the UK Cracker series was something different. It didnt feel corporate. It may or may not have contained reactionary elements……..but the form wasnt corporate. I think thats the last time I felt that. And while one can easily point to, obviously, better junk……..or sentimental free junk……for its out there. One cant very easily find cultural corporate product that isnt enclosed within this dynamic we’re trying to define. So the religious attachment to this stuff is, I think, at least partly connected to the idea of collectivity….the experience is one of sacrement. I consume the body of Breaking Bad……….and it is me.

  11. john steppling says:

    @clive,,,,,, per james bond. I think this is more blurring of politics and corporate cultural product. Politics IS TV is film. Bond isnt real, but so what………in many ways he is more real than david cameron.

  12. Just for fun, I checked out the Breaking Bad comments section (Baddicts) at AMC’s website. Talk about identification in action… 5,000 plus comments each episode and people say they’ve been posting for all 5 years. Some take on the names of characters or quotes in the show for their posting avatars.

  13. Fantastic post, John. Looking at Sontag’s essay now, I can see how she may have arrived at many of her ideas, but I think it’s important to understand that she was speaking of the Jews and homosexuals who *wanted* to integrate into the culture. I can’t speak to being a Jew, or a woman, but as a homosexual (and as a writer/filmmaker – which makes me acutely attuned to my “unmarketable” work) I know that unless there is a huge shift in the culture, only certain “brands” of homosexuality will be accepted. You see this in the blind liberal fight for marriage equality – the need to become like everyone else and to conform to a system with a 50% rate of success. Gay marriage seems to be a capitalistic function that welcomes those desperate for acceptance. Genet’s brand of camp and homosexuality is not welcomed in the mainstream, but someone like Tony Kushner is hailed as a gay trailblazer.

    Then again, young “gay culture” is currently eating itself ou from the inside. Certain bars which have once been sneered at by the mainstream gay crowd (bars like Faultline and the Eagle) have now become the new hot spots for the boys from WeHo. It’s just a flavor of the week. “Tonight we’ll go to Asian night at Tiger Heat, tomorrow we’ll do the leather boys at Faultline.” It’s quite discouraging.

    On the marketing of self. I’m so glad you’ve raised this point here! It’s a constant problem that I deal with. How do I promote myself as a filmmaker without turning myself into a commodity? It’s impossible to avoid, and if you don’t do it yourself, others will happily do it for you – like the interests section of Facebook. There’s a formula now. We define ourselves by the authors we read, the movies we see, the places we check-in, the food we eat (and photograph). Our commodified identities are constructed from a combination of products and other identities.

  14. Jack Littman says:

    such a great piece as usual John. And Joe, you hit it on the nose. I sing… and very much want to reach an audience. However, every step I take in doing so (music videos, albums, photographs) I find that I’m also stepping in the muck of my own branding. I think now, more than ever, there is a trap one finds one self in. Even when the work is genuine. And even you John, must conform to the likes of social networking to get the work across. How does one NOT do this? Is the work itself enough to resist?

  15. john steppling says:

    all i can say, @joe & jack………….is that, an awareness of all this, a sense of class, and history means a lot. Now………also, just some advice from ol’ Uncle john……..if you walk into the offices of most executives….in film anyway, perhaps a tad less in music…….they will look you in the eyes and see……they will see, ‘he is not one of us’. So in a sense, you have to start now forging a path outside the mainstream………..probably way outside. I ran into this a lot over the years. One look………and they knew. Its an animal cunning expressed by uber capitalists. I think woody guthrie said as much once. But…..its a waste of time currying favor from those who wont help. Find the alternative space for art. — and in the meantime, look, we all are living within this bubble……….in the madhouse. So one works with what one has.

  16. Joanna Perry-Folino says:
  17. Not sure the Oedipal drama carries as much currency as it once did. From a 2012 perspective, seems like it reached a peak around mid-century (Hitchcock, academia, ‘sick’ comedy etc), and by the mid-70s, ‘trickled down’ to the tackiest, dumbed-down pop-psychology and worker modification. It was just another generic form like any other, but lost theoretical ‘weight’ with the absolute triumph of the spectacle (or ‘post-modernism’ – one interesting aspect of 70s ‘New Hollywood’ was how ‘anti-Oedipal’ it was – so many from Polanski to Coppola. 80s film was about ‘restoration’ of Freudian scenarios – in a conservative sense – in a way: ).

    That US movies/TV still uses it as a thematic crutch is more about their reliance on increasingly crude narrative set-ups than its ‘resonance’ (feels strangely tacked-on with regards to anything now – superheroes, Wall St., presidents’ biogrpahies, Zizekian ‘left’ rhetoric etc etc). Even with Lacan – looking at him now, it reads like it’s more about the trauma of infants building identity via TV (increasingly personalized and ‘individual’ with the advent of video, or further gadgets enforcing separation). Which may explain why he’s still cited by academia so much – despite his views on feminism etc. Psychoanalysis just feels like another archaic genre – but then they’re still proving lucrative. Who’d think 50s b-noir and 60s comics would be such hip genres in the 21st century?

    But Obama – I find his emptiness endlessly fascinating. He has that Democrat thing, where their spectacle is diffuse (they’re so often ‘misremembered’ – Kennedy, Carter, Clinton – they somehow balance extreme contradictions years after they’ve left office). Republicans are more concentrated – cowboy, warrior, Christian, stern father etc. But when presidents change – it increasingly feels like channel-hopping, but slowed down over years: That was the western, now here’s our new show about sexy urbane lawyers. Enough of the toilet-humour sitcom, time for West Wing. And so on. Shift your mood – or demographic identity – before you kick the TV to pieces. We need you here:

    Part of ‘Obama’s’ genius (if you can call it that) was how effectively it enclosed technological changes in its dissemination. With Libya, Syria etc it’s confused matters in a way very conducive to the age of social media and the privatization of self-perception. His brand can be ‘tough’ or ‘vulnerable’ at carefully chosen moments. Of course his race carries so many ‘wild’ cards that ‘America’ (and it’s always wrong from the perspective of left or right) becomes a much slippier concept to attack coherently with him at the helm. ‘Occupy’ is in danger of becoming a tower of Babel as long as he’s there. The Tea Party’s gibberish appeared to serve that purpose – sowing media-bred incoherence, but very emotionally. It really is fan-identification – that thing where you get upset when someone hates a band or a sports team or something. Except now it’s political parties, religions or family morality. It’s even removed from immediate material needs. But then I suppose this is why people still find Lacan relevant.

  18. John Steppling says:


    I think the oedipal plays out regardless of the conscious scenarios being written by screenwriters. Its irrelevant if Polanski is anti Oedpial or not. And I think more harm was done to Lacanian theory by Zizek than can be calculated. Nothing he ever says has anything to do with Lacan, and rarely with Freud. So…..I think what I’m trying to get at when I talk of this has more to do with the mimetic faculty (per Adorno), and the ways in which we are always re-narrating what we watch. The rapid editing and steady-cam styles of the 90s, primarely in TV to start with, were really about interrupting this mimetic function. And it has created a generation that anticipates interruptions now. Ive found this with students… inability to process complex narrative. Give a student three pages of henry james and they are truly lost. But that aside……….what Lacan spoke of (and more what margaret Iverson wrote about….in among other books, Beyond Pleasure) was about this expelled material….that which is repressed because it would be disunifying. This picture-of-.the-real requires a lot of effort to sustain……….not to mention just the inherent contradictions of advanced capital…..that weight eventually causes cracks in this picture. So its not a thematic element in the narrative, its more of a form question if anything, but probably its not even that. The pop pyschology of most hollywood film doesnt even rise to the level of pop….i mean its not psychology…..its just infantalized babble. There is no longer a narrative. There is a sort of montage of narrative elements, or signifiers for narrative…..i mean the vast amount of product, the endless jillions of tv shows, has resulted in a state of just reductive code for story. Its just style code. And once all codes are appropriated, you have total marketed authoritarianism. The only thing THERE is the authority its expressing.

    Now of course I keep writing about exceptions to this, but in general the kitsch programming one finds today is simply this compulsive repetition of this appropriated code. Saturated……and its surface. Thats all. But…….the more complex material one does find…..contains something that happens in another register. And in that resides, I think anyway, these Lacanian notions of space and dreamwork. I mean just because Zizek is a doltish reactionary , and makes no sense, NONE, except when he expresses his permission to be racist ……doesnt mean the entire psychoanalytical edifice is bankrupt. Hollywood films hollow core doesnt change the structural truths of people’s realtionship to narrative. But this is the topic I guess. How that works.

    And yeah, Obama…….i mean Im really stunned on a daily basis when I read what people write…on fb, or wherever, twitter, all this cheerleading for obama and all this disdain for Romney. There is nothing rational in it. And i see people express absolutely contradictory sentiments one line to the next. Its mass psychosis. Ive not see anything like it. But i suspect its this ownership of the Brand. Again, its the sacremental dimension……..i take Brand Obama into me, the body of christ….er….Brand Obama….and I am made whole again. …..Im only half, or not even half, joking. And yes, its like fan worship of any kind. Go Packers !!! Go Obama. And even sports fan are more disconnected from the product than they were fifty years ago. Its all so full of illogic and the irational. Its very scary.

    I suggested a book today…..Diary of a Man in Despair……..Fritz Reck-Malleczewen. Written as the Nazi’s rose to power. Its probably a relevant read right now.

  19. Psychoanalysis may not be ‘bankrupt’ but I think it’s had a hostile takeover from corporations that are a lot more slick at interpreting – and creating – our desires and social relations (Bernays shaped the last century far more effectively than Freud really). The narratives we have to make sense of ourselves can be chopped and changed more efficiently now, at an accelerating pace. Like a jigsaw that keeps resulting in a different image – except we’re fooled to assume it was always that picture, it’s just us who’ve changed. It’s this creepy thing culture product has now – the baby-babble is intended. It wants us to absorb their junk with the openness of an infant on a daily basis. All in the interests of blinding us to the bigger picture – “don’t tell the children”.

    I still have a lot of time for stuff that came from Freud, but it does feel increasingly resigned and archaic as time moves on – not least in its tragic dimension (Adorno immediately comes to mind, but there’s many others). For making sense of the current Spectacle, it does feel increasingly useless, if not indulgently nostalgic.

  20. john steppling says:

    I feel Im not being clear here. ITs not about making sense of the world. Its not about what the author of the artwork intended. The unconscious is not about making sense. And i feel you give way too much credit to the mind of the individual marketer. They are not Svengalis — they are guys who sit around crunching the numbers from focus groups and reading a lot of questionaires filled out, etc. Often decisions are made because the Pizza served at that focus group meeting was better than the previous group. Its not as if a bunch of marketing geniuses control our lives. But capital itself has a logic, and I agree Bernays shaped a good deal of how corporations chose to sell things. Its the accumulative effects of this mass exposure to image……and this logic, which says the everything is a commodity….which it is..and to the sheer volume of media contact. And I think Beller is right when he lays out this ‘attention economy’……..and how the unc. has become a film strip….and maybe always was (in terms of psychoanlysis, though i have doubts about that) and this notion of a surplus unconscious. And thats really my point…..if there is a surplus, and there must be, then its not totally successful, capital isnt totally in control.

    The mimetic dimension, as adorno describes it anyway, is the most elsuive concept I think he wrote about. I disagree that adorno and the tragic is archaic….but again, I think you misunderstand the point of adono. Its not about making sense of the spectacle per se.. I believe there is a role for artworks outside the spectacle. And i think humans exist outside the spectacle, though in ever small amounts,. The spectacle is not all powerful. Its an expression of the social domination of capitalism. OF advanced capital as it continues to colonize people’s brains. But it’s not going to totally work BECAUSE somehwere in some brains there exists (if not many or even all brains) a process linked to both history, the allegorical, and to our own Oedipal drama (and one can dispute the outlines of this per Lacan or Freud, or deleuze etc) and our individual formation…the split psyche of the individual. Now its an open question just what force history has on this. Often the left is probably too quick to dismiss some of Jung even, because he was anti historical. And he was also reactionary in the end, but I dont totally dismiss it. And if you read Authoritarian Personality……its sort of interesting what Horkheimer was thinking at that point. –And i certainly dont find Freud indulgent. Or Adono. The manufacture of desire is certainly real. Thats a good part of what this posting was about. And I think 99% (maybe thats too high….95%) of the population is largely controlled by this process of manufactured desire and act accordingly. But not totally controlled. —again, its not perfect. Its not absolute control. And my position is that it never can be. The brute police state tactics suggests as much. If everyone were happily robotic we wouldnt need prisons. In fact probably the marketing demographics are part of the key. Those who cant afford to be robots are tossed in prison. They missed too much of the thought training. Im being very generalized…….and sort of snarky, but I mean again, the system is far from perfect. And there is a reason its not perfect. And culture in some sense, for me anyway, is the key to that.

    Culture is dialectical. And so should be psycoanalysis. The Spectacle isnt a thing, its a process, or set of processes that manufacture a pseudo reality, and an addiction to commodity, and it has now begun to shape people’s unconscious in ways I dont think anyone fully understands. Thats why Beller is so good in a sense, because he approaches film and TV from another direction. I sometimes think the Orwellian model is too deeply established for everyone, because I think today’s spectacle is not orwellian. It contains elements of it for sure, but its not quite that, its more dialectical in the sense that the spectacle adjusts its setting in response to resistance….its very good at digesting resistance and dissent and reproducing a commodity version for sale. But its the sheer fact that people lead their lives –psychically— as if it were all a TV show. They relate to the world as they have seen it related to in TV shows. Aaron Sorkin is way more influential in the lives of a lot of people than, say, the US state dept. But they are blur, too. Sorkin IS the state dept, or the state dept IS sorkin. Thats the thing. But my point of disagreement is about the idea that somehow the narratives we create ourselves are controlled utterly, and totally, and manipulated by madison avenue and hollywood and the pentagon. They arent. They can never be, totally I dont think.

    People go into withdrawl if their TV breaks or intenet connection is broken. The addictive aspect is real. So i dont dispute the idea that they can adjust very quickly, and re shape a new narrative to sell. But the individual audience, and the collective audience also have interior narratives…and the individual’s narrative is personal, its connected to specific things, some of which are biological and to history. And marketing didnt create my history. It may be part of the sense why marketing now targets children so much, because its reacting to something it may not even consciously udnerstand. So its possible, if people dont resist, that eventually we will live in some totally mind controlled state of passive obedience, but I have a feeling its not possible in the end. Something of the traces of history will always remain.

    The narrative we use to make sense of ourselves, are also partly our own narratives. Not theirs.

  21. john steppling says:

    “real denunciation is probably only a capacity of form, which is overlooked by a social aesthetic that believes in themes. What is socially decisive in artworks is the content that becomes elequant through the work’s formal structures. Kafka, in whose work monopoly capitalism appears only distantly, codifies in the dregs of the administered world what becomes of people under the total social spell more faithfully and powerfully than do any novels about about corrupt industrial trusts” adorno

  22. john steppling says:

    Form, not theme. Social domination, the commodification of everything, reflects something, too. It reflects in its form (its crude vulgar simplistic form) the social degradation of capitalism’s effects on labor. The narrative form matters far more than its content, or theme.

    When i wrote in this posting of the educated dillatante consumer…..purveyor of kistch taste……..this is the role in more classical eras of the philistine. For the philistine is not vulgar. This would lead us back to Sontag, actually. IN waiting for godot what is reflected is the uselessness of servititude…………a prophetic vision of domination and subjugation of labor as pointless, even as the domination continues. This is an era of pointless pretenses about labor. The legacy of colonial history is heard in the adapted voices of the colonial subject aping the former master. Not in the themes of the post colonial novel (though today, that is perhaps changing, to some degree)….but the culture industry, the spectacle, is ever appropriating all it can, and marketing now works hand in hand in the manufacture of new product meant to addict and condition a populace ……once as consumers and now as managers of their own risk, of their attention. The cunning of capital is that it adjuts. But the unconscious narrative still …within its perosnal oedipal form, or forms, repsonds to its repression.

    As adorno says, art is the memory of suffering.

    Kitsch, The Spectacle is the attempt to erase suffering…..even as its visibilty increases.

  23. If we need a revered Official Thinker to give us a permit for scepticism of the oedipal drama as literal description if the production if the psyche isn’t deloooz stamp good here? This is seperate from whether its still the inescapable ideological material of mass culture with mimetic character. I think I agree with Kaspar its not everywhere and partly thanks to competition from deleuze and behaviourism and geeky cyberpunk Churchlandi
    …more presently

  24. john steppling says:

    molly, I have no idea what you just said.

  25. I think you’re coming from the point of view that oedipal drama shows up in films because a. It is literally a correct account of the production if the human individual psyche and b. Everybody knows this from Freud or for some reason the unconscious operates thru art to compulsively tell the story of its own creation along with the other levels of the psyche.

    Its common to demand respect for this account based on celebrity.. the idea being one UA just a hater to doubt it. But then of course skepticism is allowed to brevetted celebrity thinkers and if we cite them we can be permitted too.

    But while its clear Oedipus is material for a lot of art production…its influence flowing via Freud but also more direct channels…its also arguable that a lot of postmodern work ignores psychoanalysis and assumes psyches modeled on computers.

  26. john steppling says:

    Ok, well, yeah, I think I probably parts of one and two.

    The idea of celebrity is your own, here. I dont demand anyone believe it. I refer to theory I find correct……that I believe has validty. Feel free to disagree. The point though ….if Im right… that it doesnt matter what post modern work, or post modern artists, are basing their work on. I mean you can apply various models to any artwork ….or to culture at large. It doesnt matter if the artist is a strict Freudian or a computer geek. If im right, it doesnt matter. See, this is the confusion it seems. I remember an article in the NYTimes from maybe ten years ago, during a particularly anti freudian period. And the writer said, well, Freud is crap because Ive never had a single thought where i wanted to fuck my mother.

    So, the question is more to do with number two. In a sense (and this is true even if Im wrong) that art is re-telling the story of its own creation. I think thats right. Now, what that creation is, the manner of its creation, is open for debate, right? But I do think that the unconscious is at work in art, in the creative process. I think that theatre happens to be the most resistent to a certain commodification, but thats from an earlier posting. In any event, if it is recreating in some fashion its own history, if it returns to childhood trauma, or to some originary split, then I happen to find Lacan’s account pretty persuasive. But this isnt the issue I dont think. I dont think Im quite understanding you or Kasper exactly, and Im sorry for that. But I think likewise this is this fatal sort of confusion about the mimetic function. About the engagement with art and narrative.

    But none of this directly alters the corporate colonization of consciousness. I mean either way, there has been a gigantic shift in people’s relationship to the world and their own experience. And the spectacle, that creation and constant repetition of values that reinforce capital, and contribute to passivity and an obedience to authority, is more pronounced that ever. I think Mander is basically right. He wrote that first book back in 77………and was a marketing exec before that. I mean major ad firms like Chiat Day are more influential then anyone since Bernays, probably. But its all in the service of this militarist worship of authority. And its there to narcotize the populace. For me it doesnt really matter, this part of it anyway, what theory of the psyche you adhere to. The Spectacle digests everything.

    Now what this does to what we call the unconscious, however you subscribe to this, is pretty interesting. I mean we talked (molly) about reproducing the structures of domination. And if I produce and play and charge for a ticket, then in one sense I am reflecting this structure of exploitation and etc etc etc. Except that for me, debt is moral turpitude, and for Time Warner its a sign of power…..or hegemonic capital. I dont form trade agreements or bridge loans, or ask small countries to restructure their economy, or steal natural resources, or profit from debt for bond swaps, etc. Im just morally weak. Thats the difference. I dont dig coltan…..but i use cell phones. So on a certain level, i am guilty of participation in genocide……….but obviously, Im only a victim too. Im not corporate. Now how this extends to artists who work under corporate ownership seems the real question. Are they just automatically subsumed by the message of the culture industry at large? Im not sure. Largely, yes. But I dont think totally, or I think there is something yet to be discovered in this.

  27. “is that it doesnt matter what post modern work, or post modern artists, are basing their work on.”

    Right you are saying literally the psyche is the product of the oedipal drama, and all artists reproduce it (from the male position) because someone there’s a compulsion to tell the autobiography of the psyche through art. You have two things going here – the oedipal drama of the author is detectable in the art, and the oedipal drama is narrated in the art. Not quite the same claim (a Jackson Pollack is oedipal as it is as ejaculation for mommy’s fridge door; it doesn’t depict any relation between fictional characters that retell Sophocles one way or another. Why would oedipal drama incite artists to tell stories about oedipal drama? Should’t they rather be pressed to impress mommy and humiliate daddy than to tell stories of troubled baby? It’s not really clear.)

    “I mean you can apply various models to any artwork ….or to culture at large”

    “And if I produce and play and charge for a ticket, then in one sense I am reflecting this structure of exploitation and etc etc etc”

    I don’t accept this heroic individuialist robinsonade. It’s not you; you don’t have a lot of choice; that is what a structural antagonism is. Your morality is of no significance. If you chose not to produce plays its wouldnt matter; the fantasy that imperialism will end through the asceticism of a handful of people in protest is …I dunno, the Puritan answer is a fantasy.

    The point is not to say how can I as an individual keep my hands clean? It’s just you insist everything one does has to be very virtuous, whether is it discussing tv shows or making them. So then either we are dirtied by our complicity or what we are doing has to be saintly. This seems just unrealistic. It seems religious – you are imposing good and evil everywhere. Either talking about tv shows is good or its evil. To me it seems enjoyable, thatr’s why I do it – I don’t need to feel that it’s revolutionary and I don’t feel guilty knowing that it isn’t, that it’s self indulgence. I like good food and long showers and nice clothes and all kinds of things and consuming these things doesn’t make me virtuous, its not some sacrifice I am making for humanity. That we are in a structured world, where we have access to all kinds of things others are denied BECAUSE they are denied those things – where our coltan is available to us with so little effort and for so little BECAUSE other people are terrorised – doesn’t mean we need to lie about all this or find reasons for our superiority (we read Shakespeare and appreciate it and watch movies and say smart thingsd about them, and that’s what our species is really destined to do, we couldn’t do it if others didn’t suffer, so our situation is really one of realized virtue) and that if we don’t we are just villains, diabolical evil. It’s neither. But I don’t think we get anywhere – and it should be clear we as a species have not gotten closer to communism doing what we do – by facilitating this confusion and befuddlement and distraction, this focus on the minute differences between this and that batman movie. That is taking up a lot of time and mental energy and it is somehow – plainly – sidelining us from the political struggles that people who DON’T do that with their time (Lavalas, the Sandinistas, the Zapatistas, the Congolese left, the Maoist rebels in India now, many of the parallel economy engaged left in Venezuela….) are undertaking at great personal risk. You say there is more to batman and talking about batman than our pleasure. And i say there is more that we could contribute to the urgent ly needed oiverthrow of the current relations of power and property than watching and opining about batman.

  28. ” I mean major ad firms like Chiat Day are more influential then anyone since Bernays, probably. But its all in the service of this militarist worship of authority. ”

    Ah here’s another thing though we have to be clear about. Some small group of people is targeted for propaganda so they will go along and perform their necessary functions for the military. but the whole point of the military is that MOST people are not fooled at all, not targeted by this propaganda, but are controlled by force and terror.

    So I think we who are not in that group have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of freeing people fropm the ideology, from the illusions.? I begin to think it’s treally not important. Better to write off the illusioned people, and recognise they are just the enemy, they will probably be mostly loyal to the ruling class in a pinch as always, and join instead with the BILLIONS who don’t have these illusions.

    I begin to think we, as culture workers, tend to think our task ius to open the eyes of people like us, but really probably it’s pointless, a fool’s errand. We can’t compete with Newcorp and Time Wanrner, with the capital imperial spectacle. Instead we could venture out of our niche in our political and social connections.

    Then also art looks different. Instead of being there to disillusion it is there FOR FUN, to help the not-illusioned bond, to help us appreciate eachother and support eachother and recognise each other and feel for eachother. It’s then no longer some relation between the “left” “progressive” artist (all by definition) and the idiotic reactionary petty bourgeoisie, but a relation among people who agree and are in harmony and empathise with eachother. It’s no longer a sermon from the saintly to the sinful, from the enlightened to the benighted, from Modernist Priest to the egoist consumerist herd.

    YOUR OWN PLAYS are geared in that direction, are they not? To mutual recognition, to the creation of some community, not you waking up (or gently ribbing) the idiot Mitzi Newhouse subscribers????

  29. john steppling says:

    @”Right you are saying literally the psyche is the product of the oedipal drama, and all artists reproduce it (from the male position) because someone there’s a compulsion to tell the autobiography of the psyche through art.” —

    i think this is part of it, yes. I dont accept your subsquent definition, or analysis however.

    “I don’t accept this heroic individuialist robinsonade. It’s not you; you don’t have a lot of choice; that is what a structural antagonism is. Your morality is of no significance. If you chose not to produce plays its wouldnt matter; the fantasy that imperialism will end through the asceticism of a handful of people in protest is …I dunno, the Puritan answer is a fantasy.”

    ah, this is a strawman. Nobody said anything at all about if it mattered if I produced plays. This is really not the debate at all and you know that. You use this as a foil to express a position you have expressed frequently. I was saying only that corporate hegemony is not structurally the same as impoverished playwrights self producing plays. And again, what becomes tedious here is this insistance you have about the virtuous. You cannot find that in what Im saying. You cant. I defy you to. See, this is YOUR sort of totalizing of an aspect of cultural reproduction. You utterly misunderstand or just refuse to understand the idea that I think art has importance beyond enjoyment. Its you , in fact, who are the moralizing puritan here. I am analysing art………and culture. And how it relates to politics. And probably a few other things. Now………..if its only enjoyment, if its ONLY that….its only a long shower or a bonding session, then there is no reason to write about it so much. Why`? Why read this blog? Why write about Weeds? Why do any of it. The answer is because you enjoy it. Ok……..great. But you could just as easily write about your showers, but you dont. So I assume you enjoy writing about culture more. Why is that?

    and again, nobody said a thing about sacrifice. You have to stop , you really have to stop putting words in my mouth. Where have i said this? I havent. Nor have I implied it.
    But you see no importance in art, its the same as a shower or a walk in the park. But see, if thats so, then it does seem a bit weird (to say the least) that you bother to argue about it. I dont know if you are trying to convince yourself, but it has become repetitive. The fact that I think culture is important seems the issue. You dont. You want us to join up with the zapatistas. Well, if I lived in southern mexico, i probably would. But I am the product of another culture and society. So, for the same reason you dont, I dont. I mean its interesting, given what I know of your background, that I am the one that comes from welfare level poverty. I actually know first hand the justice system, and prison complex. So, if i say, of the people I know from the class i come from, that culture matters to them, too, in my experience, its weird to listen to you suggest otherwise. Kids I taught from watts and south central, gang kids, loved learning about shakespeare. It gave them an understanding of their oppressors for one thing, but its helped break them out of the truncated narratives of corporate TV. The guys i knew in jail actually found …not all of course….but a surprising many…..found culture important. But……thats maybe not the point. It really comes down to the idea that if I say to you, art is important. Whatever that is, or lets say culture is important. And i say its important because the form, and in unity, the content, create oppositional worlds, create an other than what is, and that by doing that……….within this strange dialectic of the personal re-narrating of our creation of self……..all historically mediated………you respond by dismissing this, and by accusations of aggrandizing personal virtue, and puritanism. Its weird. Honestly, it is.

    So if you see this as facilitating befuddlement…………then feel free, please, to go join the maoist revolution in Nepal.

    I mean, what exactly are your writing about here?

    I make no claims for a use value, per se, for art. But I think culture, and the creative principles that make art possible, have importance in terms of one’s inner life. You clearly do not. Yet your life suggests you have never gone and joined Chavez or Morales or even done community level organizing. I have, actually. But thats hardly the issue. I only point it out in an effort to make clear there are contradictions at work here. If its all just distraction………shakespeare to tom clancy to breaking bad…… all does nothing to improve the lives of humans………then stand down. Allow me to encourage your to fulfill yourself with what you DO find important.

    And again, where did i say there was more to batman? Where does this stuff come from with you? I said peter brook and pasolini contained *more*. And i do think that. And often I think its of importance to know how kitsch works, though. So yeah, sometimes, linking the message of Batman to a compulsive violence in the US seems probably useful. — To understand the parameters of Weeds… see how the form evolved and what appropriated codes were at work………as it both created and reacted to a mystification of an entire liberal class in the US. Yeah, that was worth doing……..because you develop a more refined or more developed sensitivity to propaganda, for one thing, and you also come to read the contours of the prose of Kafka, of what that alegorical content might be. I think thats valuable. Do i think its starting a revolution, no. But i dont think an actual revolution is possible in the west anymore. I dont think the fragmented labor force can cohere, and i dont think people’s sense of autonomy allows it anymore. And yes, those are generalizations. Millions of people suffer daily who have never watched a TV show. Of course, thats obvious. But millions have, and millions watch 8 hours a day of TV and internet. Its probably useful to understand that. And……….i think its useful to know what is kitsch and what isnt. But it seems to you, thats its all kitsch……..and yes, the privileges I enjoy …such as they are……are related to the domination capital exerts on others. Who could say otherwise. But does that mean we should just say, fine, lets not read shakespeare anymore because people in Namibia are mining coltan?

    And it patronizes those in ghettos and barrios in the US, who desire culture, for a whole variety of reasons, to tell them that its not important. Tell them, its fun, its pleasurable………just like Oprah is pleasurable……..but thats all. Dont place any importance on it. The people i know, who do the most community organizing, who work the hardest fighting the system, are also people who value culture. Not just for pleasure. Thats my experience. I an from the US, my experience with the poor, which is my background, is with the US. I cant go to Nepal and be useful. I can be of use with a society Im connected to, however. And i would hope that teaching is part of that. Ive taught for twenty five years I think. And Ive taught aesthetics, and Ive taught that knowing the difference between Iceberg Slim and Toni Morrison is important. Ive taught that to develop a critique of culture and its political implications….and marketing and the culture industry, all matters greatly. Because it does build an awareness and awakens people to possibilites that watching American Idol does not. And its demonstrates how mystification in media works.

  30. john steppling says:

    So if the project for you is to de-mystify, I think you could do that in one paragraph, no? If you want to explain why, for you, ALL cultural product reproduces the structures of domination and reinforces the values of capital……its one paragraph.

  31. john steppling says:

    actually, i think most people ARE fooled. Seven million in prison……….and many more on parole……..but a hundred million watch 8 hours a day of TV. I think a large percentage are deeply influenced by that. I dont think totally, mind you, which i said above. Because i dont think propaganda works all the time, and not completly. But I think its a mistake to suggest, in the US, that the majority are not narcotized by media.

  32. I see a lot in far left spaces, a critique of imperialism and patriarchy etc, but it still manifests in branding. Just counter branding. This is why culture matters because the marketing form is pervasive and all defining right now. From this point forward any resistance, or organizing or building of alternative spaces, or models, first has to deconstruct that form. Real art and culture help do that, in very in direct and hard to articulate ways.

  33. So a lot of people who aren’t fooled are still fooled, and in many cases a lot of the people doing the fooling don’t think that they are doing that. The marketing form has saturated so much. There is however, a coalescing of healthy mistrust and a yearning for it to end. Nobody likes it anymore.

  34. How can I understand what you mean by importance beyond enjoyment specifically. Shat could possibly be more important than enjoyment? You never name this importance. You dont describe it. Because you ding want to say plainly art pleases god and promotes virtue. What else could you mean? It not that: Just SAY WHAT THE IMPORTANCE IS if you actually Want Me To Understand What You Mean. Just say it straightforwardly. Right now its your secret. I can’t guess!

  35. Most people . People! I refer to members of our species not our tribe!

  36. Most people don’t use Facebook.

  37. The majority in the us are certainly narcotized by media. Most ppl arent in the US. Most people are somewhere else!

  38. If I could demystify in one paragraph how media still narcotized. I’ve written that paragraph. Its kike saying if you’d aim is to overthrow the global ruling class you could do that in one sentence. Ni dieu ni maitre. Done! No more drones or prisons. You’re welcome.

  39. Entertainments only mystify for ppl who sees them. Most ppl haven’t seen batman. For the sake of argument grant me those who have were already mainly reactionary jerks. I don’t care to try to convince them they didn’t kike any of the movies they think they loved this month. Instead I want to think about Nd talk to my comrades about how these entertainment commodities negatively affect ppl who are not such schmucks as to watchtthem. People who dont know they exist. People who aren’t indoctrinated by them but instead are tortured and killed by them. Then after trying to help others understand xand prioritize that maybe I would want to get into the details of how these things affect the minds and of the privileged population who consume them FOR FUN.

  40. Why would colt an miners care what we read? The point is that the miners of colt an are immuserated and terrorized by powers whom we enrich and empower by consuming entertainment commodities. And then we often get distracted from our awareness of this by the seduction f these commodities es which remind us what wonderful complex fascinating beings we care and encourage us to investigate every little nuance of feeling and notion these commodities stimulate in us. And then we learn to find ourselves very very in erestng and to wave off reminders if what we are embedded in with dismissive judgements that ggats all obvious and trivial. We’ve said that before. Drones who cares? There’s nothing new to say…we know! Now me and my TV…that’s with endless inquiry and observation.

  41. Worth.
    Which is not to say its not still fun to talk about TV. Its very fun. And we have that luxury…electricity everywhere we turn. You say its more something (noble , lofty, courageous, vicious? More what?) than merely (sniff) fun. Its more than the lowly activity of eating food when hungry. Perhaps its more destructive of other peoples wellbeing? Good for us bad for others like all instances is wealth/life transfer?
    Art was never treated by human beings as harmless. Only commodeified art is a com panied by ideology that insists art us always virtuous art can never harm even fascist art serves human flourishing and liberation. This is the secular religion of capital…assets areThe Good. In other ages people freely admitted concerns about arts uses to power against people. Other ages imagined Phalaris’ bull, Pygmalion, golems,

  42. So…yes you talk about teaching aesthetics. Great. But what is you me to objection to the inclusion of the question of production and exploitation? What point is there to discussing aesthetic objects as if they appeared by magic or grew on trees? How does forbidding attention to their place in historical social relations deepen, rather than to prevent, comprehension of them? And I do not think its obvious tgatvtge gal of critique should BD the deepest possiblevunderstanding if your favourite stuff. We don’t contemplate the to bal is order if power to have a better finer more nuanced appreciation of dog day afternoon. Our objection to drones is not that it interferes with art pride and appreciation. We understand art in imperial order because our priority is communist revolution not finer aesthetic experiences for the privileged in capitalism.

  43. john steppling says:

    Molly, you are going in circles. First off, if you expect me to say Art solves world problems, it doesnt. I mean honestly, its become very irritating. I can point you back toward this same conversation in this very blog. No, the capitalist system exploits and destroys. No ONE thing is going to change that. No ONE analysis is going to change that.

    Ive no idea what you are talking about vis a vis tribe, most people, etc. NONE.

    And for fuck sake, seriously, do you honestly think nobody is aware most people dont live in the US? seriously??????

    But you see, I am a US citizen. I lived there , off and on, for most of my life….well, close to most. AND,…..the US is the dominant corporate center for exploitation and military domination of the whole world. Ergo, it becomes the focus of much discussion when one is trying to look at real social change. And finally, I dont speak urdu, or arabic, or chinese. Do you? Ive lived in several third world countries though……..LIVED…………and travelled to a good many more. But while i spent quite a bit of time in India, I cant speak with any authority of indian politics. I was mearly a visitor. When I write of advertising and culture, its by default going to be from my own culture. This should be fairly easy to understand, but apprently isnt.

    I asked for one paragraph because you make the same point over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Thats why.

    As for entertainments….yeah, agreed. Where is it suggested otherwise?

    and finally, i cant decode your final posting. Im not spending an hour trying to do so. But to answer what i can. This is irritating because you continue to create straw men. Who said one is trying to give finer aesthetic experince to the privileged? I want you to show me, please, where anyone, especially me, has said that. PLEASE. Where have i said the goal is a finer aesthetic experience for the privileged.

    Nobody objects to raising any question. You however, seem to object to a good amount of critique here. But again, and this is for the fourth time , of course discussing questions of production matter, and I do so constantly, and even in this posting. But more other places. Do I need to show you these places? Now, developing aesthetic understanding is not going to stop drone terror. Does that mean one should abandon aesthetic understanding? And since production is discussed a lot in this blog, its weird for you, if not dishonest, to keep suggesting otherwise. Ive had this argument with you for years, and its tiresome because its basically dishonest. I dont know who you are arguing with, but its not me. So please……do address specific things Ive said……..specific issues. I dont know enough about the maoists in nepal to write about that. Do you????????? You been in Nepal recently??

    but back to the first of this latest raft of entries………..what beyond enjoyment. I dont have a one word answer. But if you go back through this blog, for last few months, you will that addressed over and over. AND OVER. But again, developed aesthetic appreciation allows one (not by itself) to read narrative, the master narrative, but any narrative, including one’s own, with more nuance and acuity. It allows for one to develop a sensititivy about structure and form, and poetics, all of which contributes to a deepening self awareness. Ive said before that I think more developed that sense of the aesthetic is, the more one is able to resist marketing, and to resist an imposition of story on real events. The person brought up in the US educational system, the viewer of COPS and NYPD Blue, or a thousand other police state sagas, will see in a US State dept briefing on Libya, an episode of Homeland. I would like to think a better reader of cultural material, might not see that, but might recognize the tropes and structures of a cartoon version of heroic patriotic white superiority. But I think its also about something spiritual, and thats a word I loathe. I think it makes one more aware. To ponder deeper existential questions would seem a good thing.If you want to describe that as virtuous, then yes. But certainly mankind has always created art. And from cave paintings through to this moment, humans continue to make art. Now, does this mean somehow I am not aware of sugar plantation workers in Florida, or coltan and gold miners in south africa and namibia, or the deserperatly poor in places like Poland, where i lived for 8 years…….no, of course not. I can only write of that which i know. But again, real social change, in a society I belong to, still, formally, as a citizen, wont come from storming the barricades. It will come from gradual organizing at a community level……if it comes at all. In the meantime, I believe art and culture provides a rather important ground for an expanded awareness of the roles marketing plays in exploitation and oppression (in the US,….duh) and I think it provides for — as Lex said — a way toward unpacking the branding material, of knowing what it is, and how it works. This posting was called The Colonizing of Consciousness. That was what i was thinking about. Then I ran across the Mander piece, and remembered him. Now…..what is it exactly, molly, you seem to find so objectionable in all this posting?

  44. john steppling says:


    To even mention the Zapatistas or maoists is like some inverted orientalism. I mean the US has plenty of poverty, and plenty of oppression. And its where I remain a citizen. The people in other places are reacting to very specific conditions. We are not there and in the US, the assault of marketing is far more acute. Even the poor tend to be exposed to TV and film. In fact the children of the poor tend to watch MORE TV then the children of rich white people. So………teaching cultural awareness seems acutely important.

    But what is it we should be doing exactly, molly, if we arent analysing and teaching art and culture? Ive worked for years, decades, on issues, in schools, prisons, with food sustainability people, and anti death penalty people, and recently taught a workshop with Native American scholars……….ON FILM. In that series were studies on depictions of *indians* in film, etc. Mine was actually about noir. The cold war climate that was building. I guess this must be pointless though, right? must be more FUN we are all just having. When we could be………what? Organizing an agrarian revolt at crenshaw and Vermont?

    The most literate people i ever met were in jail. Thats a fact. The best read, the most discriminating readers. I remember eddie bunker arguing which dostoyevsky translation was best.- because it mattered to him. and to people he knew (all state raised).

    So its weird to continue to want to diminish this by calling it fun, and only fun, or akin to a shower. Because its not.

    Its a good deal more. And if you cant see that, ok. But deconstructing the narratives of mass marketed reality, of consumer culture, or the fragmented meanings of bad TV has it’s value………….its not some side bar recreation for the petit bourgoise. What you call culture workers is a wrong construct, too….

    “So I think we who are not in that group have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of freeing people fropm the ideology, from the illusions.? I begin to think it’s treally not important. Better to write off the illusioned people, and recognise they are just the enemy, they will probably be mostly loyal to the ruling class in a pinch as always, and join instead with the BILLIONS who don’t have these illusions.

    I begin to think we, as culture workers, tend to think our task ius to open the eyes of people like us, but really probably it’s pointless, a fool’s errand. We can’t compete with Newcorp and Time Wanrner, with the capital imperial spectacle. Instead we could venture out of our niche in our political and social connections.”

    —see thats not correct. Its not some absolute binary opposition between the illusioned and the enlightened. Its always partial and fluid. You dont write off the illusioned……those ghetto kids i taught who had recieved really bad teaching in crap high schools and jr highs, came to me pretty indoctrinated, actually. And very pro capitalist. Pimp capitalism sometimes, but still. Once we got through Killer of Sheep and shakespeare, i think they started to discover there was a wider perspective. A bigger world, and a vocabulary for resistance. Its not about preaching to the elite or writing off the illusioned. Its about always working to educate and its about creating dialogue. Change isnt a maoist revolt. Not in the US. They’ll just toss you in Pelican Bay. And once you have a jacket, have paper, you fear to do fucking anything. But you CAN read, you can learn. Shit, this was what Malcolm said. Its pretty obvious I think.

  45. May or may not be relevant, but – but you mentioned ‘Vertigo’ a few posts ago, which was interestingly voted ‘greatest film of all time’ in this decade’s S & S poll. Finally dethroning Citizen Kane – that grand fable of capitalism from the Civil War to WW2. I expected it to be replaced by the Godfather – ‘gloves off’ capitalism from WW2 to the 60s (like Kane, based on real people & incidents, and also like Kane somewhat ‘gothic’ in its approach). Family entrepreneur to impersonal corporation. Instead it went right down ‘the charts’ compared to previous S & S polls.

    That Vertigo has aquired such an inflated reputation (I wouldn’t count it as one of Hitchcock’s ten best, never mind ‘all-time’) says a lot about the culture as it is – a story about a neurotic cop staging little ‘films’ for himself, a pretty standard noir plot embellished with EC-comix graphic effects. A film about films, ‘screening’ one’s own reality (or the ‘psyche’) instead of ‘America’ or ‘capitalism’. Can’t help but wonder if it’s ballooning reputation reflects the extreme solipsism of today’s culture workers more than anything.

  46. “.what is it exactly, molly, you seem to find so objectionable in all this posting?”

    I have disagreements with many things (the formation of female psyches for example as perception of castration, the “maleness” of all art producers etc) but the only thing I object to is the insistence that the proprietor class in empire – Peter Brook being the example – in pursuing its accumulaion through entertainment commodity production does not reproduce the relation we know as capitalist empire (regardless of psychological state or content of entertainments.

    They plainty do. And this is not trivial. This is significant because it affects people who don’t care about these scholastic debates about psychoanalysis and which batman is more subversive.

    We are offered this easy way out in fantasy that spectacle encourages – that I could obliterate the power of the mass mledia by writing a parahgraph;: that we can do “iùmportant” aesthetic stuff that happens only in our heads but is somehow so important it is compared to stopping the drones evebn thoguh there is no evidence of its efficacy in any realm. Celine, we are told contributes to a progressive agenda… well if any of this is really effectual how do we get there to the global fascist police state we have? How is it that the land of the best art where there are produced the most dissertations on Shakespeare and the most productions of Beckett and the most abstract expressionist canvases live is this fascist global empire’s core? And that the revolutionary populations of the world are hooked on The Slave Isara and hip hop?

    Respectable people have declared with their dogmatic White Male Authority that aesthetics is nothing but the issue of play and vice versa. FUN. When you suggest it’s “more” you explicitly suggest it is a valuable and “important” more whose importance is gauged by criteria deriving from an agenda to overthrow exploitation, torture, terror, domination etc. If the “importance” of aesthetic education is to understand mystification then how can it be undertaken, how can that explanation occiure and be correct, if the social position of entertainments and their function in capital accumulation (Brook too) is obscured or outright denied?

  47. “the Zapatistas or maoists is like some inverted orientalism. I mean the US has plenty of poverty, and plenty of oppression. ”

    It’s not orientalism, I am naming the groups that have had recent successes however limited. That have put the ruling class on the back foot which CLEARLY the radical television producers and watchers of the US HAVE NOT DONE. It’s not about their poverty – I am referring to militants.

  48. (militants from populations who don’t consume as much audiovisual cocaculture entertainment commodities)

  49. “So its weird to continue to want to diminish this by calling it fun, and only fun,”

    Are you cotton mather or something seriously? How does “fun” diminish anything? Why is that an insult? (I want more than fun I want a crucifixion!)

    You want to call watching television (of all things) something “more” (noble? painful?) than fun? Something more important – which would be “work” or “prayer” I guess? Or both? Sayva? God’s work or something?

    Fun is the absolutely best thing watching tv could be. Anything more would be diminishment, would be lesser, worse. What’s good about having images designed by capital to make you controllable and obedient colonize your mind as you describe here? Why do you go along? We watch because its fun – that’s the lure – and then the “more than the fun” is all regrettable. SURELY?????


  50. “Its a good deal more. And if you cant see that, ok.”

    Name five aspects of this “more” Or two. I’d really settle for one.

    You just keep saying you see moire like people who claim to have witnessed marian apparitions.

    but even less specific about what you claim you’ve encountered in contacts with art.

    say what this “more” is, show me where it is, what it is, if you want me to confirm its really there and not just your imagination.

  51. ” I remember eddie bunker arguing which dostoyevsky translation was best.- because it mattered to him. and to people he knew (all state raised).”

    Well I don’t think these people are more worthy of life or necessarily more interesting or more useful to others than people with the same intense feelings about fashion or cuisine do you? I mean, they care about that, good for them.I Other people have different concerns. But do you really expect everyone to care about this? I care a little myself – to the extent that I have an opinion about Dostoevsky. So? What kind of admiration and gratitude do I deserve from all those who haven’t read any Dostoevsky or for those who find it objectionable or irrelevant? What is the virtue, the admirable quality, the “more than fun” that my interest, say, in Potocki, in his life, in the differences between the editions of Manuscript found in Saragossa, signals and expresses?

    If you’re not interested in that – this object of my fascination – what virtue do you lack that I exhibit? What’s so great about me and my interests in the literature and the art I like?

  52. “but you mentioned ‘Vertigo’ a few posts ago, which was interestingly voted ‘greatest film of all time’ in this decade’s S & S poll.”

    Wow didn’t Bicycle Thief always used to win these things?

  53. Only until the 60s – social realism went out of fashion with Cahiers Du Cinema & Andrew Sarris, didn’t it?

  54. ” Pimp capitalism sometimes, but still. Once we got through Killer of Sheep and shakespeare, ”

    Well I don’t know how Shakespeare can be seen as not “pimping capitalism”. Comedy of Errors is like a dissertation – what’s new in value since the roman times.

    But the point is not “pimping” capitalism. For you there is only what is said and never what is done. TV shows traditionally celebrated justice and equality and most still do. That’s the content they deliver – that”s the appealing fantasy they attract eyeballs with. But television doesn’t participate in the production of justice and equality.

    So you are only interested in the surface of these commodities. You want to talk about their pretty pictuyres and surface of them setting their reality aside. it would be like an aesthetic discussion of the yellow bomblets that are to attract children who think they are toys and blow them up, without mentioning that they blow up. Just talk about the form of the objects which attract and lure. Talking about the surfaces of these commodities – and ads too – alone Iis like saying “well what’s wrong with being invited to take a shower?” COnsidering the invitation to take a shower to get rid of live and parasites just ingoring that it’s really a gas chamber. Well they don’t _say_ “step thgis way for the gas!” They’re not _pimping_ extermination. They are _pimping_ hygiene and showers.? They are _committing_ mass murder.

    And that’s what the big 7 media does. Sometilmes they paint the outside of their clumpps of labour with pictures you don’t like. But usually you like the wrapopers. But they are always _doing_ the same thing. it’s a massive enterprise. There is no point in examining every single jelly bean independently. These things can opnly be understood as they are, part of a flood, interacting, consumed fragmented and in a gush. The whole perspective of beginning an “examination” with a false condition -you blank slate oedipally constructed male individual Viewer alone with this commodity’s image and souind stream, it being either the first such thing you ever saw or perhaps the end of a small series of commodity exposures consisting only of this things deliberate allusions and references – this is ideological. THIS is the ideology indoctrinating, this training in individualist fantasy and bourgeois myths about consumption and production, not the specific content of any particular film which the vast majority of people and even the vast majority of the movie consuming populations never see.

  55. But we do ‘see’ this stuff, even when we’re unwilling to view it. I feel like I’ve seen Avatar several times, but never actually watched it. Same with ‘Girls’ or the last Batman movie. I haven’t watched Obama speak since 2009 – just read about his statements and actions, but he’s still very much ‘there’. The culture product is in constant conversation with other culture product – including presidents and wars (as perceived within the Imperium) – and in turn interacting with the texture of every day life to different degrees – from architecture to criminal law. I expect there’s people in the third world who know of superheroes or sports stars without ever seeing them in their narrative context, just like people can say ‘Orwellian’ or ‘Dickensian’ without ever reading a book. And surely the ‘feel’ of MSM product is more important than its stated ‘message’?

  56. On the very most basic level it is these kinds of commodities that most effectively seduce people into the condition of bad faith -(i find that a lot more persuasive than “repression” really) – about commodities and arrangements of production and expropriation. A lot of people interact with shampoo or makeup or perfume without thinking of them as this crystallized globally organized labour. But if you were to say in a womens’ studies class that life is being tranferred froml south to north – from periphery to core – life including olfactory pleasure and sex and status and ideas and arguments about dostoevsky’s translations – through perfume and lipstick, few students would explode in fury and defensiveness and say “so you’re saying I shouldn’nt wear perfume? I should smell like a stable? I should wear nail polish? Because there’s starving children in africa?????” Anyone who acted that wayu in reaction to such a discourse would be considered a whiny egoist adolescent and an idiot.

    Yet bring up the same thing about television shows, and this is the reaction one gets from grown people! It didn’t used to be – all this “theory” was developed precisely because people were suddenly desirious of understanding these kinds of commodities that didnt have a fixed measureable mass, the audience cmmodity, computer programs, things very cheaply reproducible, licenses, derivatives. And entertainment commodities are amlong these kinds of commodities that a lot of people exploring these things have daily experience of consuming. And many can detetct the ideology which masks the relations of production and exploitation -bwhich masks their identity as dead lmabour organized a definite way – in them, where in financial instruments or patents of other kinds its harder for people to visualise.

  57. “I expect there’s people in the third world who know of superheroes or sports stars without ever seeing them in their narrative context, j”

    of course – the t shirts and dolls are sewn in places where many people dont have the tvs. In Haiti, Mickey Mouse is called “that rat”.

  58. in the last ten years though moist of the world has been saturated by American tv, though mainly for the prosperous minority iof course it disseminates once its accessibly by satellite in a territory.? everybody sees this stuff worldover. It’s just not everbody sees it more than they do anyhing else except sleep and work..

  59. john steppling says:

    Yeah, funny, I would have predicted Godfather. Its surprising that it fell, but Im sure there are factors in who S&S chooses to speak. But….per your comments on Vertigo. Yeah, i think is exactly right. I mean one could find a dozen films that are essentially about watching film, or screening film. In fact its an almost dominent theme today. Solopistic in terms of establishing the primacy of the screen. Of trafficking in image. And in all of these the protagonist is the curator of the screen. Id not thought of Vertigo that way, but i suspect thats correct.

    And i agree about not having to see the films. This is how hegemonic its become. I never actually sat through a single episode of Sex and The City, but I know the entire series. You cant escape it, and as was discussed earlier, none of us seem able to discuss politics or anything else without film or mass media metaphors.

    And I think this is relevant because politics, or electoral theatre, is now produced exactly like a TV show. The comments i read today about the VP debate were exactly (!!) like listenting to people discuss the season finale of Sopranos. Nobody said a single thing about policy, or ideas, or anything. they only reviewed the SHOW.

    @molly……Ive answered most of what you are repeating again, so just re read my previous comments. Seriously. I did. As for peter brook………I mean I dont know his financial particulars, but he’s not a corporation. This is a really fundamnetal confusion you seem to insist on. Peter Brook, or myself, are not Time Warner. There are very obvious differences…….and I listed them above. If that is how you interpret Shakespeare……….ok. I dont agree.

    as for white male authority, what does that mean to you? Its like when people say, you leftists. Whats that mean? What does that look like? I dont find this particularly useful form of argument.

    and then this:

    “So you are only interested in the surface of these commodities. You want to talk about their pretty pictuyres and surface of them setting their reality aside”

    no, Im interested in the product. See, here you are again, deciding things based on stuff Ive never said. Its becoming very obvious that this is just a sort of rhetorical strategy on your part. Since I continue to talk, in almost every posting, about both the film itself, or the play, both in terms of production, those relations, and the corporate ownership of the distrubtion as well, its a bit weird you keep saying I dont. I think what you mean is that I dont do it the way you approve of. The fact is, the US military drops bombs on people. And US capitalism feeds this machine. US capital and its global corporate brethern, also control trade and tariffs and by extension the economic arm of domination, the WB and IMF and Bank for International Settlements, colonize via financial extortion. And the 7 media sisters control most of all media and the culture industry. However……….im not talking about bombs or trade agreements, Im talking about the culture industry. And I think one can speak of them as both cultural product …..and how that shapes a public sensibility, and sets terms for discourse. The master discourse as it were. If you want agreement that Time Warner is horrid corporation and contributes to domination, you wont get an argument from me. But clearly the issue for you revolves around this idea of taking the content and form of these cultural products seriously enough to analyse them. Well……you’re at the wrong blog then, because thats what Im doing, among other things I hope.

    then this:

    “We are offered this easy way out in fantasy that spectacle encourages – that I could obliterate the power of the mass mledia by writing a parahgraph;: that we can do “iùmportant” aesthetic stuff that happens only in our heads but is somehow so important it is compared to stopping the drones evebn thoguh there is no evidence of its efficacy in any realm…”

    I ve no idea who you are referring to here. Not me.

    So………ive answered the rest above. I told you why its important for me. Now, Ive also mostly discussed the cultural work of people who are not funded by corporations. Myself included. But somehow for you we are guilty in the same way. Peter brook is the same as shakespeare and SONY.

    so thats not worth again answering. Im too tired.

    so let me see if there is anything Ive not already answered……..

    no, i dont think so. But let me make clear something here. Peter Brook is not reproducing those relations. He may exist within them, but since the money involved isnt even what a SONY executive makes in an hour, the actual concrete material fact of what Brook does is not related to Boeing or Raytheon, or SONY or Clear Channel. And thats because, like me, he really isnt making a profit. I know. I always lose money. Brook may have made a profit, Ive no idea, but I can tell you it wasnt much. And even if he did, in his realm, a highly profitiable production of something……….its still tiny in comparison. So you really mystify the corporate relationships with audience when you lump them together. What corporate studio and network producers do is to utterly saturate the media…… kasper said, it feels as if one has seen Avatar ten times even if one hasnt. Nobody can say that of Brooks last Chekov production. But here we get to white male authority. Well, he and I are both white males. What does that mean exactly? Im not a white male of any economic power. Im very marginalized, more than you in fact. So its a bit tiresome to have to defend what I do in this way.

    So yes aesthetic education is important. And to de mystify the relations of production is important WHICH IS WHAT THIS POSTING WAS ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. See, so I am left having to guess what exactly you demand people say about the culture industry that hasnt been said.

    I used the Sontag essay for a reason, see? And that is because it was the precursor to a sort of white hipster cultural dillatantism. The elite appreciation of junk….of mass product and it has come to masquerade as populist, on the one hand, but also as a superficial critique that is of course about validating the status quo. And that is what art-works have largely become; fodder for fans to salivate about. To rank, and to vote about. Oh, Vertigo is the best film of all time. This sort of thing is just an extension of the Oscars and the Super Bowl and is what the Spectacle does. And so ingrained are the mechanisms of this fodder………from camera angles to acting to scoring etc etc etc, that they are anticipated, much as interruptions are. This is the role of marketing, in the end.

    The culture industry is psychoanalysis in reverse…….as Horkheimer said.

    It is there to put people to sleep, or a kind of sleep that leaves them wanting to shop. Except that today, consumerism is slowly morphing into something else, and thats worth talking about.

    Now, I find it offensive, honestly, that you claim aesthetic education is linked to NOT caring if bombs fall on people. Again, I am a citizen of the US and spent most of my life there, and since its the heart of empire, its only logical for me to focus on the product produced there. I dont know what the cultural output is in Sri Lanka, though actually, I acted in a Sri Lankan film, oddly enough. But the point is that Im well aware of global capital, but im not writing about that.

    as for fun, its not an insult, but when you suggest thats all it is, I can only tell you (refer to the last twenty entries on this blog) that I think there is more to say. And your absolute confusion about Brook and the corporate is dismaying, actually. Look, a lot of people have fun watching tv. But thats hardly the end of the discussion. For me anyway. As for eddie bunker and dostoyevsky, that was plainly an example that answered a previous question of yours. I said for a lot of people in the marginalized classes, these things, aesthetic educaion, mattered. Thats a fact. Do with it as you wish.

  60. john steppling says:

    One other point. Not related exactly. I remember when richard seymour gushed about V for Vendetta. He also waxed indignant that the latest James Bond was so popular.

    Now, first off, both are junk. But as junk goes, the Bond film was at least made better. So the point was, if you firstly, cannot determine that both are essentially corporate junk, thats unfortunate, especially for a self defined “leftist authority”. And secondly, that it became clear he had a very limted, almost primitive, aesthetic sensibility. Now, curtis white wrote a great essay, actually two great essays, both I think still at Dalkey Archives. One was called Kid Adorno, on One Eyed Jacks, the only film Brando directed, and the other on Saving Pvt Ryan. He said, its clear that speilberg is a fascist. And on the other, he spoke of One Eyed Jacks in adorno-esque terms. A film in which he found Oedipal themes, but also a gloss on the tragic.

    Now i bring this up because as Lex said above, if one is looking for real social change……(and lex is community organizer and anti death penalty spokesperson and worker) then culture matters greatly. I agree. For if Seymour has such a truncated cultural vision, if his reading of film (in this case) is that limited, then I suspect other things in his reading of situations is going to be limited (as it was with the Balkans for example). Culture and art are a means to develop awareness, and order your ideas, and to recognize how narrative works……..the master narrative, or otherwise. The crap PR that the state dept now puts out could only fool the more stupid listener. Adorno said the rise of nazism was partly the result of the destruction of the german educational system. Barbarism was easy to message — the jingoistic slogans of national socialism had traction. Id probably argue the same today. The US has never been as openly fascistic. Never so openly racist, and so misogynistic. The republican right is just OPENLY racist openly misogynistic. The democrats are more refined……but the content is exactly the same. The hipster liberal class…those afficianados of breaking bad, respond to the dem narrative, and the under class WHITE popluation to the republican narrative. Howeveer, we know only half the country bothers to vote……….so maybe we should always remember that a good many people can still recognize the inherent propaganda of all this. But i believe cultural education is important. How else does create a utopia?

  61. Okay fold

  62. Let’s talk about sontag . And a each v got Richard but then it site off. It was a momentary thrill. Now forgotten…

  63. Eesh …can’t use phone. V grabbed rs but it wore off.

  64. But yeah rs is opportunities stock too. He misread working girl as neolib and “feminist” on my purpose because he wanted to justify an attack on “hegemonic feminism”. But here I find insincerity not stupidity.

  65. But let me ask you…I hear what Lex is saying. But how does the culture most revered in our existing society, our society where there are executions and slave labour and torture gulag, become part of the overthrow? How will Celine and Beckett and Freud and Lacan already so respected in the society that executes.. become part of the undoing of the dehumanizing supremacism they appear to have been elements of constructing? I believe the mass culture demonizes and normalizes. I don’t take for granted that because it can and demonstrably does do evil that it can also do good. The class struggle is asymmetrical.

  66. I worry that many young people in critical industries from r the reproduction of consent and management think there are nothing BUT aesthetic judgements.

  67. “you claim aesthetic education is linked to NOT caring if bombs fall on people. ”

    I didn’t say this. But didn’t Goering collect all the Cranachs? Aesthetic education can be indoctrination in white supremacist patriarchy, and it can be the opposite. We have on this blog argued about these questions, but clearly if Celine and Pirandello and D’Annunzio and Gentile and Eliot and Pound and Hamsun and Karajan and Schwartzkopf and Gide knew anything about aesthetics, and we assume they did (at least some of them), then aesthetic education it is not incompatible with wanting to drop bombs on people and worse. One of the things the avanguardia or modernism, which still holds the bar for elite unimpeachable taste, is NOT is consistently averse to hierarchy, white/aryan supremacism, misogyny, capitalism, imperialism and war.

  68. I’m not sure if Becket, Freud and Lacan are “so respected”. On on hand, hardly anyone knows or has read them, or they have simply received a pop reading second or third hand…..OR, and this is really the issue, and the reason autonomous education spaces are so key, that the reading of them is held in academia, which is at this point the least critical space their is. I presented at a racial justice conference here in New York, and could not get any of these professors there presenting at what was really just an academic trade show, to talk about police violence or mass incarceration. But they were more than happy to talk about racial micro aggressions, or how Fox News is so racist about Barack etc….

  69. john steppling says:

    OK, I think both of these last couple questions are very worth discussion. First Molly…….well, partly, lex just answered that. But aesthetic education, like any education, on history and science or almost anything, has to be good education. I mean as lex said, nobody, and i mean NOBODY actually reads Freud. And i absolutely guarantee you (i would go to the mat on this) that NOBODY reads Lacan. I will guarantee you that 100%of the Lacan comments you hear come via Zizek or maybe Kristeva or someone. But its true of Marx or Freud too. And this is the corruption of education. Again, lex’s comment……….institutional learning is worthless at this point. Its training in various sub jargons. Thats all. So……….how will aesthetic education become part of the undoing of white patriarchal capitalist domination? First off, I would say, its also art itself. I mean we have a culture that now values criticism more than the art. I value criticism too, but nothing I read from universtities is worth listening to. Or almost none anyway. I mean a few guys like Ed Herman actually hold chairs in academia….or Chomksy, or margaret Iverson….so sure, a few. But……the undoing comes from, as lex said, autonomous spaces. And thats what needs to be built. The problem now is that autonomous spaces, the few there are, never focus on culture. I remember in Los Angeles, last time i was there, trying to pitch a film series at this community center…good people….lex pitched, too. And the response was, ‘we want to see that documentary about blah blah…’—- some left-ish sort of discussion about whatever. Did they want to see Killer of Sheep or Pasolini…? No. And thats a problem. Because you HAVE to widen your vision…..develop first of all a better analysis of mass culture and what its doing (these people no doubt LOVE a lot of TV and Film , popular shows………..Newsroom whatever)……..and secondly you must be able to read the (that adorno quote on kafka) form,

    ” What is socially decisive in artworks is the content that becomes elequant through the work’s formal structures. Kafka, in whose work monopoly capitalism appears only distantly, codifies in the dregs of the administered world what becomes of people under the total social spell more faithfully and powerfully than do any novels about about corrupt industrial trusts” adorno”


    to be able to understand this seems vital to me. Its radicalizing to read Kakfa. Not the themes, but the form, the structure. Its more radicalizing, I think (and so did adorno) to read Beckett than Brecht. This is the importance of the mimetic function, which re traces the contours of tensions in a narrative…..and connects, intuitively, or maybe unconsciously, these tensions and scale with a material world out there. To look at Piranesi is to understand, on an intuitive level, Pelican Bay. And that is a transformative level I believe.

  70. hi everyone, sorry to intrude, but molly keeps telling me anecdotes from this latest Great Debate and i couldn’t stay away. but it’s ok — i really only have 2 cents to add.

    it seems like everyone’s talking past each other, which is another way of saying my opinions fall somewhere in the middle. some of the confusion i think comes from molly’s idiosyncratic use of the word “fun,” which conventionally connotes frivolity. and so it feels wrong to those who take art and aesthetics seriously (as i do). but what molly associates it with above: “to help the not-illusioned bond, to help us appreciate eachother and support eachother and recognise each other and feel for eachother” is not frivolous, but is necessary for human flourishing.

    in fact, as reasons to care about art i think that and this: “To mutual recognition, to the creation of some community, not you waking up (or gently ribbing) the idiot Mitzi Newhouse subscribers????”

    are spot on. things get complicated when we start talking about disillusionment. in a sense disillusioning is what (ideally) we’re trying to help each other to do all the time, as part of the creation of community. i would say that’s even more important in the late capitalist first world, or important in a specifically aesthetic sense, when lots and lots of $$ is spent on mystification. we are immersed in highly sophisticated bullshit, a foul substance the field of modern aesthetics was developed to help its readers navigate. it was also developed to make its readers feel important and elite, to justify their civilization against others. and finally (‘unconsciously’) to reproduce capitalist social relations. adorno understood this apparent paradox:

    “The cultural critic is barred from the insight that the reification of life results not from too much enlightenment but from too little, and that the mutilation of man which is the result of the present particularistic rationality is the stigma of the total irrationality. The abolition of this irrationality, which would coincide with the abolition of the divorce between mental and physical work, appears as chaos to the blindness of cultural criticism: whoever glorifies order and form as such, must see in the petrified divorce an archetype of the Eternal. That the fatal fragmentation of society might some day end is, for the cultural critic, a fatal destiny. He would rather that everything end than for mankind to put an end to reification. This fear harmonizes with the interests of those interested in the perpetuation of material denial. Whenever cultural criticism complains of ‘materialism,’ it furthers the belief that the sin lies in man’s desire for consumer goods, and not in the organization of the whole which withholds these goods from man: for the cultural critic, the sin is satiety, not hunger. Were mankind to possess the wealth of goods, it would shake off the chains of that civilized barbarism which cultural critics ascribe to the advanced state of the human spirit rather than to the retarded state of society. The ‘eternal values’ of which cultural criticism is so fond reflect the perennial catastrophe. The cultural critic thrives on the mythical obduracy of culture.”

    today aesthetic criticism can rightly be called an industry, and manifests a similar degree of autism as economics. so critiquing the products of the culture industry as aesthetic objects is not a radical act, for the reasons molly describes – “These things can opnly be understood as they are, part of a flood, interacting, consumed fragmented and in a gush.” and yet, i still think an aesthetic education (institutional or not) of the Western Civ type is important. it’s a trained faculty and an intelligence, like math or logic, and that an american radical intellectual tries to use mastery of the same critical bibliography to understand breaking bad as kafka, or can be taken in by brand Obama, are signs both of overdevelopment and failure of aesthetic judgment.

    so as left sympathizing petit-bourgeois critics and/or artists who live and work in imperial core countries, i think it is important to talk to our peers, the hundreds of millions who have undergone similar levels of indoctrination. it’s true that we “can’t compete with Newcorp and Time Wanrner, with the capital imperial spectacle,” but we can’t compete with the police, the army, or any of the other institutions of empire either. and no matter how widely we “venture out of our niche” i’m pessimistic about any of our capacities to escape it.

  71. “I’m not sure if Becket, Freud and Lacan are “so respected””

    I mean there are elite cultural institutions funded by capital which revere and cherish these works. There are more dissertations about Beckett than any other writer. He is continually performed. Freud is a household word. Lacan is one of the most referenced intellectuals, and is referenced in fields like legal theory and political science as well as psychoanalysis. It is true psychoanalysis is discredited in the clinical psychiatric practice as we’ve noted the observations are part of common sense, integrated into fields like marketing and entertainment.

    This “could not get any of these professors there presenting at what was really just an academic trade show, to talk about police violence or mass incarceration” is agony, but isn’t it partly the fault of Freud and the respect for Freud, and isn’t this disposition (one of class, white supremacist domination) one of the things that underlie Freud’s popularity and acceptance by the elites of our society and his?

    Freud’s model of the psyche – besides promoting a naturalise determinist indivudualism that says we are possessive and competitive, violent creatures, without love or altruism, mutually using, biologically gendered, and no not “in capitalism” but since the evolution of our species) is also a microcosm of the white supermacist imperial vision. Our civilisation/ego is threatened because every man has a barbaric Slav /Id inside him rattling the cage and struggling for independence.

    In 1933 Freud wrote, “Our best hope for the future is that intellect – the scientific spirit, reason – may in process of time establish a dictatorship in the mental life of man.” The attraction of dictatorship as a solution to the unfortunate fact of selfish egoist brutish individualist human nature, that _Homo homini lupus_, appeared not only for self government within individuals. Freud hoped that a resulting “community of men who had subordinated their instinctual life to the dictatorship of reason” would constitute a ruling class fit to complete the civilizing mission; these patriarchs, formed by the internal dictatorship of intellect over instinct for the exercise of the same benevolent dictatorship externally, would possess the ideal virtues of liberalism. Having each individually with the higher psyche subdued and conquered the individual primitive beast of human essence within, they would form an “upper stratum of men with independent minds, not open to intimidation and eager in the pursuit of truth, whose business it would be to give direction to the dependent masses.”

    Beckett, we find, suitable to the posture of these professors too. His work is about and undertakes to marginalize and erase imperialsim and race. His major plays depict what is presented as a kind of “pared down” “just-the-basics” humanity which is gendered in a patriarchal way (as if discovering this) but not raced, as if imperialism’s racing of the world were trivial and can be set aside when musing on the human condition. He was very adamant that his plays be performed by actors who were racially homogenous, that racial difference not appear ever in his plays. He didn’t write of racial difference and he didn’t want it to be acknowledged as the external reality of the context for his plays by appearing in the composition of the cast. It is repressed, it is expelled, it is denied. His case was that this was because racial difference would muddy the vision and meaning of his work, that nevertheless we all take as a vision relevant to humanity, our species. His plays do not recognize that humanity is hierarchized by race. Isn’t this very similar to what the profs at NYU who will talk about microqressions and FoxNews but not massive slave labour do? What they think is a true picture of the world doess’t include recognizing the historical reality of race, the actually daily reality of race, of being raced, of existing in the white supremacist order. So at least in this, doesn’t the popularity of Beckett and the attitudes of academics seem harmonious? We can see why elites who are annoyed by the forcing of concrete relations of imperialism and race would like Beckett, who not only doesn’t bother them in this way but takes up a posture that this is no necessary component of the search for the truth of the human condition of “How It Is”.

    Is Beckett so appealing partly because he respects the same “don’t want to talk about that!!!!” as they demand for their comforts? Is Freud so appealing because he justifies the civilizing mission not only on the imperial scale but locates it in the infant psyche, as the very most fundamental fact of the human species, of our nature?

    Might it at least not possibly be the case? Because that Beckett is huge and Freud universally read and known among this crowd is a fact. What is the reason for this undying popularity and canonicity? Is it because these authors comfort and not disturb the elites who reproduce their status year after year? I would say the vision of what counts as “the basics” (and there is the false minimalism derived from Sade as well, as if the normal state of foetus’ is outside – like the vitruvian man – not inside the mother, isolated not joined) are suited to the dominant ideology. They envision us, Humanity, in ways convenient both to justifying ruling class violence and belittling and naturalizing the victims sufferings.

    Why is this the brevetted elite culture of this particular elite? I think there are obvious reasons.

  72. ” Its radicalizing to read Kakfa. Not the themes, but the form, the structure.”

    I think though the problem ehre is that it is a demonstrable v erifiable fact that reading Kafka was NOT radicalizing for the vast majority of the people who read Kafka. Because they are PLAINLY not radicals. All the people that Lex encountered refusing even to discuss the prison industrial complex have read Kafka, certainly. That’s in fact a scene where’d you’d have very dense having-read-Kafkaness.

    What may be true is that Kafka is enjoyable for radicals, for people with radical ideas, Kafka is a pleasure to read precisely because of the way the texts stimulate them relative to those ideas, the way the texts facilitate the expression and refinement of the existing tendencies and stances.

  73. The New Republic loves Kafka. Zadie Smith is a very avid reader of Kafka. Paul Berman can cite chapter and verse of Kafka. What went wrong? How does the magic die on contact with these people? Susan Sontag was a deep drinker of Kafka too. Howard Jacobsen. Martin Amis. Plenty of people imbibe plenty of Kafka and emerge untouched by the radicalizing form.

  74. Hi there traxus…”that an american radical intellectual tries to use mastery of the same critical bibliography to understand breaking bad as kafka, or can be taken in by brand Obama, are signs both of overdevelopment and failure of aesthetic judgment.”

    What’s missing that allows this is mediology – of the type that is less mystical (less Macluhanist) and more focused on value production and expropriation (Smythe).

    But John, even there you return Beller to psychoanalysis and individual psychology rather than accept the shift out of that subjective posture. Like about surplus unconcsious, its not that there’s a surplus of productive dreaming that isn’t touched by media, but that trhere’s a capacity to experience richly that is transferred from the south to the nroth via these institituions bectaqse literally child soldiers wsleep badly, literally they do not have their own rich life of the mind so WE can have these movies and aesthetic experiences that make our life of the mind and emotions and imaginations richer (or moire pleasureable. This post questions whether its really in every way richer or whatever.) My point is we can’t just be constantly obsessed with the experiences of epople who are reaping the benefits of this expropriation and exploitation – we have to stop talking about our condition in isolation because seeing it in isolation, disconnecting it from how it is produced, is precisely the fetishism and illusioning that counyrs, that sidelines us. All the others are trivial – all the other illusionings are imperfect, we see through them routinely, and they’re not necessary. We have to stop seeng botox and the eternal youth of plastic surgery as mainly affecting the users and insist on seeing it as a vampirism, insist on always knowing and being aware of the source of these magic technologies. And we have to be aware of when volunteering to enhance the value of a lmicense, which allows greater capital and power to be accumulated by the media coirps, that we are arming the Death Star Goliath against which other Davids – not us, other people – have to defend themselves against.

  75. And what I am trying to resist is precisely this ideological manoeuvre of disarming this by saying “siure it’s obvious. All this is obvious. I get to watch movies because child soldiers brains are destroyed. Yes, BUT my experience with these commody sensual stimyulations that I have with so little effort because of the unbearable shortened painful lives of others is STILL TH E MOST INTERESTING THING and is unaffected by these conditions of production.

    My point is to say it should not be unaffected. That is the ideology, the capitalism imperialism supremacist dogma I challenge – that the “art” shoudl eb protected from all this history when it is consumedf. GTghat we have to work to ignore what we know in order to properly respect these commodities and properly respecting them is our duty.

    Thios ios what i challenge. That we have to read Heidegger pretending not to know about the history of Nazism and his role in it and how then this stuff was produced; that we have to watch Avatar and pretend not to know everything we know, pretend it’s a message that flew in a window in pencil in a paper airplane.

  76. So there is a critical practice that stops by just naming what’s articulated.

    So “V for Vendetta envisions revolutionary anarchism as the work of a charismatic individual who terrorizes followers into obedience like an abuser and develops of myth.”

    true but who cares? Why would anyone care what V for Vendetta “has to say”? I don’t.

    What that “analysis” is is one detail (the one the infantilized and seduced audience is fascinated and lured by) enlarged of a meaningful and necessary explanation of what V for Vendetta is which would be responsibly aware of all we can know about it as a capitalist enterprise organized globally and which basically would explain how popular anarchist sentiment is expropriated and enclosed by V for Vendetta, sold back to its (intellectual= creators vitiated for profit, and inserted as an almost inescapable roundabout through which future discussions of uprisings and anarchism and massculture and anarcfhism must be routed which then collects more attention and increases the value if the licenses.

  77. by increasing the value of the licenses it helps concentrate the welath and power which allows for the reproduction of the system whereby Obama is packaged and sold, along with congress, governors, mayors, and policies, by the ruling class who have effectively limitless resources.

    SO who cares what V for Vendetta is saying. Most people never see it. If it matters its not because it persuades anybody of anything on its own. Eveyrone who sees it also sees thousands of other things, endlessly; it can’t possibly leave an impression as if it’s the only movie anybody every saw (which is what the traditional althusserian lacanian style of film crit, the Screen style, envisions.)

  78. I mean look at these arguments all over about Breaking Bad. the assumptions underlying, the unexamined common sense about what this stuff is and how it effects people and where it comes from, is just so silly and yet it remains immune from the very “critical critique” that everything thinks they’re engaged in.

    Unspoken is “if you were in Platos cave and this were the only shadow show on the wall you might be persuaded that….”

    Also ignored is how its consumed, and how it is piled in with everything else.

    But looking at this one sees there are two incompatible things that are often confused: an account and explanation of these things (a Marxist account, a social historical materialist account of them) and an interpretation of them in any of the traditions of literary criticism or hermeneutics, whether of the Scrutiny sort or the more formalist kinds. The Marxist anbalysis is not just one of these – its not another method of exegesis alongside psychoanalytic, or myth critical northrop fryish, or new critical formalist, or Barthesy structuralist, or Foucaulty new historicist, or Hazlitty, or Empsony or Crocean. It’s just a different endeavour, it’s got a different object. And (as Jameson sort of famlously pointed out) the product of all these others can be and should be taken into account – they are part of the hsitorical reality of the aesthetic object, the entertainment commodity, one of its qualities is that it provokes these “readings” – but the production of readings of television shows, that list the allusions and discuss their influences and references and suggested visions of human agency and morality, and even that do the work of defining the norm and the marginal, the native and the alien, us/them etc, is just one small and not the main part of the undertakling and what I would like to resist is the treating the historical materialist account as a detour that only leads back to some finer appreciation of this crap tv (or quality tv) and again centres the privileged audience and again reaffirms its unquestioned worthiness of the privilege because look how much more itneresting that person”s experience of this art is than the experience of the child soldiers whose brain is being destroyed, (whose capacity for this rich psychological experience is being transferred to that other Viewer who then emerges so so interesting and rich), by meth and sleeplessness and terror and pain.

  79. And its very hard for people to understand that the destruction of the brains of others IS NECESSARY to the consumption of these spectacles by the privileged populations; People really want to believe that’s an unformate but unnecessary element, tnat somehow thgis spectacle could be produced and made abvailable to them and they could be the same kinds of people stimulated constantly by all these artifical prods and fed constantly by all these visioons and symbolic material, consumling all this unconscious and imagination and fattening their own, without anybody providing the means, with the imperial order which is organized globally to produce this stuff and give it to a privileged population in exchangfe for their attention to it or a very small amount of waged labour. They believe their conditions of having this available at so little effort is just natural, part of the natural order, like limes growing on trees and nuts and berries for the hunter gatherers. Not just the telecom infrastructure and the digital tech, but the running water, the streets, the electricity, the fdams, the water treatment facilities, the vehicles, the fuel, the food, the clothes, the medicines, the botox, the makeup everything everything everything is needed and their position in this order requires that others are in a position where their life is drained to enhance the sensual experiences, the intellectual life, of those who consume the surplus, consume the products of global human labour.

  80. Arlie Hochschild said it well about labrou – there is a “global heart transplant”

    Caring is expropriated from south and gioven to the nborth. The north is taking the south’s mothering.

    There is also a global art transplant, a global aesthetic/intellectual experience transfer, a transfer of the unconscious – the productive imagination, the psytche – from the soutgh tp the north.

    We can see it within the core too, from the poor to the rich, from black folks to white. It’s not as extreme but the destruction of the brains of drug addicts and malnourished and crap fast food eating and terrorized populations in the core is part of the prioduction process of an art (hip hopp) that is enjoyed and enriches the experience of white consumers. Their unconscious is fattened by the destruction of the unconscious of the guy who can’t sleep in prison whose life experience feeds the culture that the proiducts which enr(ich the imaginative, aestjhetic and cultural life of the privielegd are made of.

    As MArx eplained, the organizatrion of collective production in markets pof exhcnage disguises all this. It makes the consumer and producer feel unconnected and isolated. It makes the white elites whose lives are enriched consuming Tupac feel they pulled it like a fruit from a tree while passing by. They don’t feel their art consumption is anything but the product of their own virtuopus search to realize and actualize their inborn potentials. They don’t acknowledge that their rich aesthetic experiences are vampirism – that other people’s brains and lives and sensibilities are depleted, despoiled, devastated for theirs to be enriched.

  81. Also we inherit from late 19th c imp core artists the notion that art should disturb and estrange. This idea was based on the fact that the audience was bourgeois. So that’s reasonable. But that art should disturb becomes dogma ripped from that context. Shakesspeare plainly used art to delight and reassure. Elite modernism is about making bourgeois feel the disorientation and anxiety they inflict on others. Noe I don’t see why this would be the priority of art by radicals for radicals or for ppl already plenty anxious and terrified. Now perhaps art could be used as instruments for forging solidarity and promoting knowledge and courage. It doesn’t HAVE to be fascist – and scaodgoating is not the only way to form and affirm social bonds.

  82. john steppling says:

    Molly, seriously, I cant keep up with this. Im going to be here all day. I am forced to ignore a good deal of it Im afraid, partly because Ive addressed a lot of it already.

    But first @traxus…….
    nice to see you here first off.

    Look, let me answer your comments as I partly answer Molly’s as well. First off.. when we say “criticism” we are being so general that the term is rendered meaningless. Who are we speaking of? there are a lot of bourgeois critics writing a lot of jargon infested tautological de-politiczed academic (usually) filler. This was partly the point of what lex said. Creating autonomous spaces for education are very important. I dont blame Freud for his bad critics, sorry. And I think its very easy to take any artist and find holes……..find missing tropes, etc. But as with, whoever, conrad or Dostoyevsky, its partly what is missing that often renders their work so powerful……such as the paradoxes of artworks I think. You can assault beckett for racism……but you cannot discount what is very powerful in Beckett either, and the sense he provided.

    Psychoanalysis explains clownish humour as a regression back to a primordial ontogenetic level, and Beckett’s regressive play descends to that level. But the laughter it inspires ought to suffocate the laughter. That is what happened to humour, after it became – as an aesthetic medium – obsolete, repulsive, devoid of any canon of what can be laughed at; without any place for reconciliation, where one could laugh; without anything between heaven and earth harmless enough to be laughed at.”


    “The condition presented in the play [Endgame] is nothing other than that in which “there’s no more nature.” Indistinguishable is the phase of completed reification of the world, which leaves no remainder of what was not made by humans; it is permanent catastrophe, along with a catastrophic event caused by humans themselves, in which nature has been extinguished and nothing grows any longer.”

    now I just picked these out semi randomly as examples . That doesnt mean what you molly, say, isnt true or valid. But I think anyone working in theatre after Beckett has to address beckett. But what is needed is a dialogue that includes all of this. Im not ready to abandon Beckett and I dont see him, clearly, as you do.

    but traxis question about escaping Time Warner is what motivated this posting originally. I think one can, but I think it requires learning outside the institutional models.

    Molly : SO who cares what V for Vendetta is saying. Most people never see it


    of course most people never see it. Are we to talk about only things EVERYONE has seen?

    as for Kafka. You are being disengenous here. First off, most people DONT read kafka, i can tell you from twenty years of teaching in four different countries in europe and north america. And the few who do, dont know how to read. Thats been my point. EXACTLY my point. If you grow up watching CSI Omaha, you simply havent the tools any longer to read. And the only people Ive taught who can read have been the most marginalized students, economically. But the point isnt that kafka is meant to produce revolutionaries but that if you learn to disciminate and read at a more sophisticated level, you get a good deal out of reading Kafka. (refer to adorno quote again). Thats all. NOTHING you read by itself produces radicals like instant pudding……add water and stir. So should we stop reading?

    Now this question of child soldiers allowing me to watch HBO is a something worth looking at. First off, its not true on the most basic level. Im not contributing to the production of weapons at General Dynamic or Boeing. They do fine without me. I think everyone on this thread has, in different ways, worked to destroy global capital. But we cant do it. We can only survive it, hopefully. That sort of revolution isnt possible. What is possible is build new autonomous spaces and pray the SWAT teams dont find us. And everyone ends up at Florence Colorado’s new super max. But that is the program as I see it. And to do that, to educate while organizing and building new models for existence (and you and I molly espcaped the US….this isnt by accident. ) Lex works daily organizing resistance from within that empire. So the question of culture is to find ways to critique that both demystify and refine and develop sensibilities. Because I dont want my autonomous space screening V for Vendetta as if its not corporate junk. If its screened I want an understanding of what it is, and how it works. And yes that obviously includses an understanding of its material production, the relations of class and gender and race, of more of Capital itself. The fact that capital has morphed into a financialized debt driven nightmare. The massive increase in unemployment worldwide and the reducing of incomes, and growth of tax deficit ends with millions of jobs lost and factory shutdowns etc. The transformation of international monetary arrangements……the real contradictions between financial capital and real capital…….I mean all this is global……and it has changed how surplus value is sucked from labor. So today this attention economy suckes value from users of even open source platforms and software are improved via consumer testing. There is no escape….From the Lehman Bros collapse in 2008 to the G20 summit in 2010 there has been continous panic in global capital, and in europe all these countries…italy, greece, ireland, etc…….assaulted by the IMF to save european banks…….I mean I guess my point is that the enclosure is total, and its in a sense on auto pilot. And its going to collapse at some point and thats why they are testing new slave labor zones in honduras and post katrina camps in the US. So Im not sure I buy such a direct link between autonomous education building, including watching Pasolini, or even whatever junk is at hand this moment, as living off the brains of drug addicts in detroit and appalachia. We cant stop the power structure because it has concentrated power of a kind new in human history. We can only strive to rebuild outside this system as much as possible, and part of that is to learn aesthetics.

  83. ‘Autonomous zones” are already there – for the upper middle-class upwards. It’s in policies surrounding housing, school, health, roads, and everything else – privatized consciousness, right? X amount of policies by this Conservative government are about increased “autonomy” for the affluent, and as far as they can go absolutely disempowering anyone below a certain level of earning power and assets.

    It’s the bottom that can’t escape the direct coercion of power. Both within the Imperium and of course more so outside it. That the ‘bottom’ will only grow lager in the coming years won’t take away from the autonomy of those who’ve benefited from enclosure.

  84. john steppling says:

    “”Also we inherit from late 19th c imp core artists the notion that art should disturb and estrange. This idea was based on the fact that the audience was bourgeois. So that’s reasonable. But that art should disturb becomes dogma ripped from that context. Shakesspeare plainly used art to delight and reassure. Elite modernism is about making bourgeois feel the disorientation and anxiety they inflict on others””

    I dont think this is true. Or largely not true. Shakespeare wasnt writing to delight and reassure. Its interesting you think this is plainly obvious.

    now per your comments on Marxist analysis. Again, there is good and bad analysis, and good and bad marxist analysis.

    here is eagleton on adorno on beckett………

    “One of the many things that Adorno admired about Beckett’s writing was its ‘scrupulous meanness’, to borrow Joyce’s description of his own literary style in Dubliners. Beckett’s works take a few sparse elements and permutate them with Irish-scholastic ingenuity into slightly altered patterns. Complete dramas are conjured out of reshuffled arrangements of the same few scraps and leavings. It is an economy with which Beckett had some acquaintance in real life, when towards the end of the Second World War in Nazi-occupied France, he and his wife scrabbled about for a few carrots or onions along with the rest of the half-starved population. The tramps of Waiting for Godot (though who says they are tramps?) are similarly reduced to hoarding the odd vegetable. Beckettian humanity is famished, depleted, emptied out of any rich bourgeois inwardness; and though there may be an Irish memory of famine here for Beckett, Adorno could find in this image the poor forked creatures of Auschwitz. The Jew and the Irishman could find common ground in this stark extremity, as they find common ground in Ulysses and in many popular jokes. Both understood that one could live and write well only by preserving a secret compact with failure.

    What is most drastically impoverished in Beckett is language itself, which in a Protestant animus against the ornamental is hacked to the bone. Perhaps there is an Irish exile’s reaction to blarney here, a monkish distaste for the swollen rhetoric of the Irish Revival. Like Stephen Dedalus’s, Beckett’s is a life devoted to silence, exile and cunning.””

    Beckett for adorno was addressing post nazi europe. For adorno was asking how culture would adress post fascist germany, and europe and post hiroshima.

    So art does many things, and you sort of mystify this by saying its only about making an audience anxious and terrified. No, its about , among other things, awakening to possibilites not envisioned…….and sometimes that requires an exploration of anxiety. One of the problems with leftits writing about culture is that they demand this life affirming theme of solidarity etc. That usually is its own form of reactionary reduction. Life IS full of anxiety. We live in a threatening and sadistic universe of predatory capital. So the more developed narrative is going to reflect that, as it hopefully provides answers, or the right questions, to the mass destruction of humanity. Nobody, i trust, wants after school specials about how awful child soldiers are. We know that, or should. And anything in its form that is that reductive is going to end up as token sermonizing. And be reactionary.

    Art cannot be sociological.

    “But John, even there you return Beller to psychoanalysis and individual psychology rather than accept the shift out of that subjective posture. Like about surplus unconcsious, its not that there’s a surplus of productive dreaming that isn’t touched by media, but that trhere’s a capacity to experience richly that is transferred from the south to the nroth via these institituions bectaqse literally child soldiers wsleep badly, literally they do not have their own rich life of the mind so WE can have these movies and aesthetic experiences that make our life of the mind and emotions and imaginations richer (or moire pleasureable. This post questions whether its really in every way richer or whatever.) My point is we can’t just be constantly obsessed with the experiences of epople who are reaping the benefits of this expropriation and exploitation – we have to stop talking about our condition in isolation because seeing it in isolation, disconnecting it from how it is produced, is precisely the fetishism and illusioning that counyrs, that sidelines…”

    The surplus unconscious is not that there is surplus dreaming, and i never said that. Its that the insistance by mass cultural product that attention and the unc, be channeled into such narrow venues, this constructed picture of the real, these endlessly repetitive models of reality….a kitsch world of simplistic structures of experience results , eventually, in the unconscious spilling out in acts of almost arbitray sadism and violence. You cannot endlessly repress the contradictions. You end up with mass irrationality. And that people’s lives are spent in front of screens, and that reality itself is experienced as a screen, means this expelled material … the normal human mimetic function, is deformed. Now, yes, I am coming from a psychoanlytic perspective in this, but thats the one I find most useful. In the same sense that the relation of bondage and servitude in beckett is expressed as continuing despite its being obsolete in terms of traditional labor. Or transferred, as you say, to the further reaches of empire. Yes to all that. But the villains are not people watching Breaking Bad, they are a victim, too, though clearly not to the same degree……though that may well be coming. Everyone is enclosed within this vast appartus of domination. Educating an awareness is crucial, but so is a development of autonomous thought and aesthetic experience. I happen to think learning to read Kakfa, since thats the example at hand, is a useful part of this. To villify kafka or beckett seems misdirected. The sadists are the owners of Boeing, the pentagon and US state dept, and the vast monetary structures of empire. Not artists.

  85. There’s no easy answers to this, and I have many mixed feelings about anarchism. But from personal experience, and current rhetoric I see (especially from OWS-associated stuff), I can’t help but regard the idea of autonomous zones as distinct to a certain (alienated) generation of the middle-class absorbing the ‘lessons’ of neoliberalism’s endgame. That it’s nominally “left” doesn’t stop it from being bourgeois to some degree. Growing your own, home-schooling, alternative medicine, home birth, democratic practices factional and localized – David Cameron wouldn’t have any problem with that.

  86. john steppling says:

    Well, again, we need to discuss what autonomous zone means. There is certainly a danger that its what you describe, but my experience is a bit different. Might it be bougeoise to some degree? Yeah, but its not always so. I think its cliche to think, oh, homeopathy and crystals…etc. I know a lot of smart people NOT doing that. This is more a media vision, the cartoon version of “alternative”.


    “brutality toward things is potentiall brutality toward people. The raw…subjective nucleus of a priori negated by art, from which the ideal of being fully formed is indispensible. This and not the pronouncement of moral themes or the striving after moral affects is art’s participation in the moral and makes it part of a more humanly worthy society”.

  87. Like I said, it’s my personal experience in a European ‘rich’ country. Maybe not the case elsewhere – but for pet-bouge ‘radicals’ trying to establish ‘autonomous zones’, it seems there’s no escape from a certain amount of bad-faith libertarianism – but with an awful lot of good faith from all kinds of market junk pandering to their sense of ‘specialness’. From Dalai Llama merchandise to that home-birth guru who’s very secretive and litigious about her own success rate (forget her name – seen her book on a few shelves though). We’re back to spectacle again – taste as holy, media as meaningful, as long as it speaks to ‘you’ on terms you prefer. The cliche one feels ’empowered’ to perform – there’s a good range to choose from on today’s market. Or at least most people within the Imperium like to think there is.

  88. Anonymous says:

    Zadie Smith, Paul Berman, Martin Amis, Adam Kirsch, Howard Jacobsen and Susan Sontag HAVE ALL READ KAFKA.


    The subset of people – small indeed – who have read Kafka ARE NOT RADICAL.

  89. Anonymous says:

    ‘ as living off the brains of drug addicts in detroit and appalachia. ‘

    youre not taking what i say literally otherwise youd just have theatre and cave painting. the entire globe has to be organized as it is to bring us all these enriching tv shows without us having to do any work on producing and ;aintaining the technology. it is a literal dependence on the destruction of the lives of so;e people. we literall could not flip the button and see breaking baqd if those kids didnt die keeping people dise;powered nd unable to defend their interests in the worlds resources. LITERALLY.

  90. Anonymous says:

    ‘ But the villains are not people watching Breaking Bad, they are a victim, too,’

    i just dont see how this tqask of finding villains is helpful. And this is what i cant ever seem to break thrpugh on – i reject this puritan ;oralizing. i dont think leisure is depraved. i dont think our species has a ;oral duty to suffer or toil, I dont think recogniwing your position in a STRUCTURE of ANTAGONISMS means confessng to sins<

    i just find this distrcting and i reject it, but you keep reinserting it as if there is no other way to think

    I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD. I don't believe either suffering or pleasure are signs of redemption or perdition, virtue or vice, moment or triviality I can't pretend to find this intelligible. I just don't, My utopia is not everybody zorking away at suffering nobly and achieving transcendance. I am attracted to the land of cockaigne.

  91. Anonymous says:

    I’m not vilifying Kafka or Beckett> I am just not fetishing them. I dont think any of this has magic powers. This is the CANON. This is our official elite culture. It coouldnt really get any more revered. And yet we have a global police state, a fascist world empire. Clearly the capacities of this revered caanoncial highly respected culture to contribute to the formation of social relations we want is SEVERELY LIMITED.

  92. all the anonymous was I Molly obviously

  93. It has nothing to do with whether you help the military. Where did you get your electricity? Your coltan? Your oil? Your digital technllogy?This stuff takes a lot of labour. Other peoples lives are consumed in making all this stuff. They dont get to see your plays in exchange. They get nothing from us. Their lives are turned into our entertainment commodities and we give them nothing. They don’t get share in the global product that we get. We get their share. The worlds resources including the labour of to maing things to entertain us …clothe feed warm transport heal us.

  94. john steppling says:

    funny, how i knew that was you anyway molly.

    Wait……they dont get anything from “us”. Im not my country. Ive worked a long time against my government’s policies until i just had to leave. So its not “us”. Its the US imperialist empire. Do i use electricty? of course. So this has exactly what to do with child soldiers? I mean not its not literally true. ITs utter mystification to suggest this. We go to jail if we dont pay and register for electricty. Thats a fact. We live within a form of prison, and the same with cell phones. If you dont have a number you cannot open an account for anything….or even get a drivers liscence. I didnt vote for this. I dont ask for it. Im not stealing food from the mouths of children in the Congo. The US military is.

    its not the canon that is limited (and not the canon, but lets go ahead and use that awful word). The master machine of domination digests everything, including people. What standards are you demanding of literature and art? That we point fingers at it because it hasnt stopped global conquest by an Imperialist empire?

    per puritans…..I give up. Ive answered this and explained probably six times. (refer above).

    the whole world is not organized to bring us TV shows. The world is being organized through several forms of domination for the interests of a small class of rich sadists and psychopaths. TVs are only a branch of this empire’s domination. You cant skip steps in this, for it leads to absurdities. But jesus, we’ve been round on this for seemingly years. Refer to above or previous debates. Many times.But….are Time Warner and FOX horrid murderous corporations, trans global imerpial monsters? Yes.

    why the fuck should i care what zadie smith reads? And i dont know if she read kafka. And it means nothing. NOTHING.


    I think from my experience, that in small community organizing, and i think we need to be clear between semi autonomous and totally. In these semi autonomous zones…..self governing and as distanced as is possible…as.sort of works in process……..the sense I get is of a very anti bougeois sensibility. These are barrio and inner city groups………or small sustainable farming communes. In both cases they have been anti bourgois. The problem isnt a sense of ‘shopping’ for brand identity, so much as having a less clear idea of what an ideal future would actually look and feel like. There was a much clearer sense of what is SHOULDNT be. There was a sense that gender rights, racial equality, non hierarchical organizing were important and cornerstones of how to move forward. But in one sense Ive always felt the cultural sense of life, of play, was much less clear. Education always seemed a heated sort of topic. Partly because education entails a good deal of hierarchy. Anyway………in sweden I was at a place that built on sustainable organic farming, perma culture and tiny houses, etc. And these people were definetly not bourgois. They were plenty weird on certain things, and puritanical….which i found a real problem, in fact. But they were also admirable and really off the grid. Totally.

  95. “they dont get anything from “us”. Im not my country.”

    right but you personally use the telecom technology, for example, and you don’t make it. How does it appear for your use? How can it be so cheap? How can clothes be so cheap? You get to arbitrage labour power – you get to buy the products of labour at one tenth of the price of labour you sell your labour at. Or less. That’s imperialism. We get to use the telecom technology so cheap because people practically enslaved do so much of the mineral mining, the food production, the work producing what goes into it. The African mineral miner cannot afford a ticket to your plays? Did he work less than you? No. It’s imperialism – we get the products of his labour cheap. If those people didn’t live so badly you would not have all this tv to watch. If only people like us did what we do, there would be no electricity provision and no satellites.

    I am not talking about the country. I am talking about the workers of the core who get to use the wealth of the core – to walk down the beautiful smooth streets, to have access to all the cheapo stuff in the shops, to be relatively safe, to have museums for free, to have electricity everywhere, to have hospitals everywhere, to have telepohones and televisions everywhere. This stuff doesn’t just appear and culture workers don’t make it.

    We use the world that others make and we don’t contribute as much as we use – you and I. We use the telecom technology, the medical tech, the roads, the streets, the electricity, the clean water and we do not labour at this at all. We do not labour enough to make the equivalent of what we use of this. Our lives are worth much more than those whose products we use; we buy labour products cheap and sell them dear.

    We don’t do, also, the dirty dangerous painful work that is necessary to everything we use. We don’t go into the mines or cut the sugar cane and we don’t fight the wars that make the fuels and minerals extractable so cheaply that make available cell phones and digital entertainments for pittances, for very little of our labour. We have available a man made world with resources on tap made by people whose lives are artifically depressed in value by violence and who do not share in what they create. We don’t make and don’t work to maintain this world we live in and enjoy the benefits of.

  96. “the whole world is not organized to bring us TV shows. ”

    the entire global system is necessary to bring you the shows yes. Everything from food production to software is necessary to bring you this endless stream of entertainments. You could have this without the entire world system.

  97. you could NOT have this without the entire world system.

  98. ” Do i use electricty? of course. So this has exactly what to do with child soldiers? I mean not its not literally true.”

    God where do you think the minerals come from to make the grid? How can you afford them? Do you think it grows like a garden????

    It is LITERALLY TRUE that you can afford electricity because child soldiers drive down the prices of labour in the periphery and additionally make it impossible for people to defend the resources near which they live so that the imperialist capitalists can extract them easily and cheaply.

    Tell me why you can afford electricity and others can’t? What are you doing they’re failing to do? If you can use electricity why can’t everyone?

    Its a global system. The labour that makes what you need and use is not compensated so there is a surplus for you and me. Lions can kill more than they can eat. people can produce more than they need simply to survive another day. People are forced to produce and produce just to survive and sometimes worked to death. The capitalists takes a lot of this as profit but some of that surplus comes to the privileged workers, the culture workers, us in the core.

    This is marxism 101!!!!

  99. ” ITs utter mystification to suggest this. We go to jail if we dont pay and register for electricty. Thats a fact. ”

    yes. you pay. so does bill gates. And to pay you sell your labour. and you buy the products of labour at $2/day and you sell labour at $2 every ten minutes.

    Where do you think things come from? how is this world you live in affordable? How did it appear for your use? You didn’t pave the streets and harvest the rubber and launch the satellites. You buy a phone for a day’s wage. But many of the workers who made it can’t. What’s happened there???? How come the phone is a day’s worth of work for you and a month for someone else? Why doesn’t it cost you a month’s wages? And how come there is service available for you to use and not for everyone everywhere? Because of the child soldiers. Their labour is essential to maintaining these arrangements that deliver to you cheap access to this world, these products. Without them the labour of the coltan miners and the rubber cutters would be so expensive you wouldn’t be able to afford all that stuff, the tv and the satellite, and still have the time to use them.

  100. “Im not stealing food from the mouths of children in the Congo. The US military is.”

    The military maintains the differences between you and the Congolese, but those differences create the standard of living of the core.

    Your entertainment commodities, that you consume, are the lives of others who don’t get any entertainment commodities to enjoy. That is how they happen to be available for you for almost nothing. They don’t cost almost nothing in labour to make, it’s just much of the labour that makes the world is unrewarded and practically enslaved and we are not and we get some of the surplus that’s extracted from others.

  101. I mean – cheap stuff. Free tv, cheap headphones, cheap clothes, cheap usb keys. Well they are NOT cheap to the people who make them in factories in China and Haiti. It is those people who are cheap. We are buying those cheap people. How are they so cheap? So much cheaper than we are? Child soldiers, paramilitaries, terror.

    It’s a global system. The $300 laptop exists and enriches our lives; it comes into being by the destruction of other lives, the depletion of other people’s aesthetic and intellectual energies, the ruination of their sensibilities and the starvation of their senses. Our imaginations and aesthetic experiences are enriched precisely by theirs being despoiled. It is a direct connection.

    Understanding this is what Jameson ùmeant by “cognitive mapping”. For some reason people find it hard to grasp. But it should eb obvious. Our task when talking about these commpodities that en(rich our intellects and aesthetic lives is to explain where it comes from, what it is made of, that it is not actors and directors digging their own minerals and cutting their own rubber and planting their own rice etc, but that this is made of other people’s lives and their imaginations are utterly exploited to dirtsucking by this process and that, the crystalization of their suffering and toil and depletion, is what we have the privilege to consume and enrich ourselves with.

  102. john steppling says:

    And your point is……………?

    Molly, I have worked all my life to survive. Unlike you. And ive fought against globalized capital all my life. And i dont recall actually getting anything free ever. So this binary model of us and them is a bit weird. No, I HAVE to do certain things to survive. I dont need lessons in marx 101. Trust me I know what imperialism is. But Im not responsible for Imperialism. I work against it. Yes, bill gates pays……….so Im just like bill gates? What are you saying? That all education has to ONLY be about Imperialism or we are immoral`? Id love to have the entire corporate strucutre torn down. I would love revolution to destroy it all. But that isnt going to happen. So what I CAN do is provide education to understand imperialism, and that includes understanding its products. I think you would agree with that. But in your vision, one isnt allowed to discuss aesthetics because of imperialism. Because miners are worked to death in africa and south asia. Therefore we arent allowed to suggest some cultural product might actually provide useful education on levels other than just the relations of production. That some….maybe….not much i grant you…….almost none…..but some might be aeshetically educational. Are you suggesting we shun Peter Brook? Stop reading beckett? What are you saying?

    So, no, I dont think my existence is responsible for coltan mines. And in fact, education is part of the resistance to that. But again please, we’ve had this debate ten times. I could cut and paste the EXACT SAME DISCUSSION FOR YOU. I could cut and paste it ten times. So, if this offends you…………and you find this stuff pointless because somehow we should be doing something else, why bother writing the same analysis over and over and over. Go forth and destroy imperialism in ways you see as more valid.

  103. John what does your personal life have to do with how the telecom infrastructure us built or the global division of labour? in Norway where the minimum wage is like 11€ an hour you are not the only person with a TV. You and the other norwegisns enjoy a world built h ppl making much less. In the words you and the other Norwegians trade an hour of you life for a few days of someone else’s.

    And the drones aren’t over you.

  104. If you insist you can say “for every one else except me these commodities..goods, servic e, tech, Infrastructure… i consume are made by labour bought at a fraction of he cost of the labor every consumer except me sells. I am the one person who lives in Norway the way the colt an miners in Congo live.” Your are unique. Fine. The point doesnt need you. Everyone else in norway shares in national public equity. Thd point diesnt need youto be like everyone else legal and not jailed in the core. The commodities are still made of the lives of the producers and enriching the lives of every consumer except one, you.

  105. Are you saying I shouldnt wear perfume? Do you want me to sleep in a shanty? You want me to go down in a mine myself so you can see your favorite films? You want me to work in a factory so you can have a screen? You want me to get sprayed by poison so you can have coffee while you watch the screen I made? You want me to breathe these chemicals to make th e computer part for your energy grid so you can have light and heat and read Shakespeare on a cold night? You and everybody else in Norway? Is that what you want? Or shall we all get the year off?

  106. john steppling says:

    You answered none of the questions I asked. So what should we do molly? Of course my life matters. Its my life.

    What the fuck does perfume have to do with this? Ive explained a thousand times already and I wont again, that i understand imperialism. So you want what`? Should we not discuss kafka again?

    And dont talk to me about prison. Ive been to prison. Why is it that those who havent are always the ones to take this position. Its a form of elitist guilt or something. Ive explained this. And no, “I” havent traded anything. The western Imperial nations have. Those that I work against. What form does resistance take for you? What does education, autonomous learning look like to you?

  107. IWhat a weird thing…what if I said when you mention Obama and the drones I’m just voting for the guy Im not responsible for the drones. Do you want me to give up art just because of these drones? Shut up about the drones!

  108. Shut up about the drones!. I’m not commanding them am I? What do you want me to do about them? They have nothing to do with me.

  109. Why should I resist. My hands are clean. Im not the US military. Nothing I can do. I’m not responsible for imperialism. What I enjoy I pay for…my electric bill is the same as yours. My entertainments too.

  110. john steppling says:

    You know, the poor where Ive lived….in the US, the immigrant community in norway…mostly asylum seekers from sudan, eritrea , syria and kurdistan………those people are denied education. They benifit the most from all kinds of education……including aesthetic. But maybe they should stop enjoying TV too, and not learn how to view it critically…..or people like me, like you. Because none of us is fully appreciative of molly’s Imperialism 101-. I mean this is what Ive come to hate about a lot of the left, frankly. Yes we should talk about those companies. And I do, and have in thirty some postings on this blog, which apprently you never read. But I also talk of the value of Beckett or peter brook….which you find problematic. Because somehow, THAT part of the education isnt permitted. We can only talk about the reproduction of capital …the global system of labor. Ive spoken of that. Probably for twenty some years. But now suddenly you and I and everyone in norway and everyone in the US who watches films is exploiting people in uganda. Well, thats not true. Those kids in detroit and bet sty and south central………or appalachia or even people like me, have been under duress our whole lives. You think none of us understand any of this? Seriously? What exactly are you doing that allows you to say this? Because there is an accusation under everything you say. But you need to explain what YOU do to stop all this. What organizing and teaching you do.

    So… question, along with what this new education would look like, is do you think creating art, writing plays, lecturing on aeshtetics, all something not worth doing? It has no value unless its about global exploitation directly? I mean maybe you need to re read this posting. But honestly, you have said the same thing fifty times….or more on this thread. Summerize please.

  111. john steppling says:

    No Molly. WHAT DO YOU DO? Oh virtuous one. Because now you’re just being idiotic. Ive not said any of that. But no, I actually try to do things that will work against the imperial war machine. That happens to be part of what education does. And yes, aesthetic education.


  112. People who vote for Obama dont want to talk about imperialism althe time ans only that either. They want to talk about out gay marriage. So why do you insist they talk only about imperialism? Isn’t gay marriage important? And the appearance of Obama…his urbanity, his sophistication? Does this mean nothing? Why is it always back to imperialism? Nothing we can do about imperialism but we can have a good looking president who doesn’t sound like a cretin. I’ve talked abg imperialism a lot I don’t see why it has to be central in every conversation about america and the white house.

    Do you accept that?

  113. john steppling says:

    So no, I think aesthetics matter. I think critical thinking matters. And for the thousandth time…….I think talking about global capital as its reproduced in cultural product matters. But its not all that matters. Because learning to develop a more developed sensibility, is important. As I see it anyway.

    So…….I mean, I also have organized on some level everywhere Ive ever lived. Im doing it now with the immigrants. A travelling theatre piece. And some of it is about Imperialism…..the reason for these people seeking asylum. Some of it isnt. But its all linked. But you see to demand this one critique…….as the expense of all others. Peter brook and kafka……..or whoever……that churlish reactionary shakespeare………..all of this is just pointless, right? Just frivolity like taking a shower. Well, I want to know what YOU DO. You’re gonna to call me out……… tell me what you do.

  114. john steppling says:

    and interestingly, this piece with the asylum seekers is done for free. The bougeois dimension doesnt exist because we do it for other immigrants mostly. We try to get state funding, but i dont know if we will.

    Gosh, maybe this is bad, too.

  115. You didn’t respond about Freud and Beckett specifically. I pointed out why I think they are suitable for the current elites.

    For the twentieth time I don’t find how you code this in virtue and sin intelligible. I did not think drinking coffee is sinful but you’re not going to tell me if the producers went on strike you’d insist they go back to work to provide it. Or TV.

    These commodities have no nothing to do with theater or subsequently is thence gardening. They are massive enterprises.

    There has always been the periphery in the core and stratification. This is not the point. This individuals ist perspective all about virtue and sin is just confusing. Ten year olds in the core wear sneakers sewn by kids their age. They are kids. They can’t becrespinsible. But its idiotic yo deny there’s a value transfer just because the core kd s not responsible for it? Its just stupid to forbid or avoid accounting for these transfers and if life because the core population includes a terrorised and immiserated sector. Look who voted Obama. They don’t want wars and fascism. But that’s no excuse is it? You still want to convince themof the truth about Obama. Yo re the virtuous and they are the sinners? Is that what you are stay ng? They are killing ppl with their support? Or are you just thinking that r would help if ppl were less oblivious to the reality? It would be ridiculous for me to claim what you did when you critics icized Obama was accused his every voter of mass m murder and demanded they stop consuming art.

  116. I don’t do anything in Greece but I’ve worked with asylum seekers and the UK hr group for them specifically says the tVs hostility is effective…a story about asylum seeker crime one day translated to assaults on minoirity groups identified with asylum the next. I worked for the osce on this question of what TV can do to reduce the xenophobia. Its name pretty obvious. But a lot out if what is considered excellent TV art definitely contributes to negative perceptions of vulnerable groups.

  117. john steppling says:

    I give up. You’re now officially talking to yourself. Ive made my points, andyou ignore them. YOu speak as if I dont understand you. I do. But I feel strongly you have no effort to respond to what Ive said. Its pointless.

  118. john steppling says:

    what was once an interesting analysis, is all about molly.

  119. john steppling says:

    you know, I just looked over the last ten postings. Not a single question was answered. Thats not a discussion. And it highjacks a thread. Its all about you babbling on about this one point. And I answer it, and you repeat it in a new version because I believe you a compulsivly addicted to this point. As if nobody understands global capital. Do you think Im stupid? I mean as i say, its frustrating because I had hoped this discussion were to continue. You dont read the original posting, you dont answer questions. You only make the same point INSANELY, over and over and over and over and over and over. And any respone must address your very specific logic. Very narrow sense. The coffee remark is a great example. Who said that? YOU DID. I didnt say that. In fact i said the opposite. I said i wished global media corporations would fail, that there was a way to make them fail. But you turn that around and say oh,. if coffee stopped would you demand they go back to work? Thats dishonest molly. You are smart enough to know this. I simply do not think living within the empire means you personally are responsible for coltan miners or drones. One contributes by breathing, too, and resistance means, in part, education.. god, i cant do this, i ve said it fifty time. But i give up. And its frustrating. You win……..the M OLLY THREAD is ALL MOLLY NOW.

  120. You’re not hearing mle at all

    it’s not about me, you make it about you then about me. About who is virtuous. I don’t think this interesting or meaningful.

    My point was that i don’t see meeting one’s needs as “sinful” because they are arranged in commodity production and accumulation of capital. I think this is a ridiculous way of viewing things. Virtue and vice just don’t seem helpful here, it just obscures the task if the task is to clarify reality for people.

    You’re idea is people might be more self determined equipped with better understandings of reality. – then at times you say no its not about that – but I think this is the common assumption. I agree with that and think you are being inexplicably defensive by insisting that not only you stand outside the global system but everything you touch does even the big media.

    I suppose this is associated with autonomous spaces idea as a solution. One the one hand there is the parallel economies thing in Venezuela, which accomplishes a lot and seems to be endless in possibilities, on the other there is stuff like the edufactory which i think is bogus.

    But why can’t we secede from the global system? We can take out this highly visible elective things – education, aesthetics – maybe. Not really but a little. But the point is the division of labour is global and everyone is arranged now in everything in the rich world. Some peasants some places are still kinda of autonomous but even in Haiti they have been roped in by the deliberate destruction of native rice and the creole pig. But its only a stone age life that can be really autonomous. You can’t be autonomous and wired.

    You act like I’m insulting the impoverished in tehc ore – the US which has deep poverty – but it si from people from the US from communities that are immiserated and terrorised *and colonized* though ppl situated in the metro territory, that I learned this. It is honoring my education by the organic intellectuals of those communities – including say Immortal Technique, or the decoloniality theorists – and people near them – say Jared Ball – that I pursue this issue…. I paid attention to Leslie Marmon Silko.

    I don’t know why you insist on seeing everything as proof of the virtue and vice of what you do personally. Like because many Obama supporters oppose the Iraq war it’s offensive to them personally for me to discuss all our roles in it or even to acknowledge that it happened and that people died and others benefited.

    About the coffee – it’s about whether it is sinful to consume and enjoy it even though one would prefer it stop being made – in its current arrangements of production – altogether.

    ” i wished global media corporations would fail, that there was a way to make them fail. ”

    Well we know we can’t make them fail by volunteering to enhance the value of their licenses daily. But maybe we could get a boycott going. It wouyld be a small sacrifice to stop watching these entertainments, but if even 100,000 ppl did it the corps would feel the pain. So why do the 100,000 devoted anti-imperialists among the routine users of this stuff resist such an idea so intensely? Why is the impulse to say “no! it’s pointless! dont even discuss it! dont even mention it or think about it!” Why?

    We know why its silly to boycott some basic commodity or brand or other in the cuirrent condtiions. We know who would suffer most if we stopped drinking coffee.

    But that”‘s different – we’re the end users. With the entertainment commodities we’re the attention labourers and we could strike at SO LITTLE COST to ourselves.

    And maybe it wouldn’t work. So? Is that a reason not to try? But I meet the most astonishing resistence, intense, that winds up in tantrums about what an evil selfiush spioilte elitist bitch I am…and this reaction (if one were to believe Freud) is a classic sign of repression.

    What is being repressed?

    I would say the knowledge of the world system and our role and how we do go along for these pleasures of the entertainment commodities which we feel disconnected and bereft without, which have become the principle others in a one way emotional relation that substitutes for our lack of the kinds of social bonds people used to have. I think many people repress the awareness fo what they are consuming. They repress that these things are dripping with blood, that they are clumps of torment and death.

  121. I meant a hundred million not a hundred thousand

  122. That’s not true. You asked specific questions and I answer them:

    Q: WHAT DO YOU DO, MOLLY [because you want this to be about me personally?]
    A. In Greece I don’t do anything.

    Is that not an answer counselor?

    Q/ And your point is……………?
    A: This individualist perspective all about virtue and sin is just confusing. Ten year olds in the core wear sneakers sewn by kids their age. They are kids. They can’t be responsible. But its idiotic to deny there’s a value transfer just because the core kid is not responsible for it.

    Q: my question is do you think creating art, writing plays, lecturing on aeshtetics, all something not worth doing? It has no value unless its about global exploitation directly?
    A:Look who voted Obama. They don’t want wars and fascism. But that’s no excuse is it? You still want to convince them of the truth about Obama. You’re the virtuous and they are the sinners? Is that what you are saying? They are killing ppl with their support? Or are you just thinking that it would help if people were less oblivious to the reality? It would be ridiculous for me to claim what you did when you criticized Obama was accused his every voter of mass murder and demanded they stop consuming art.

    Q:So this has exactly what to do with child soldiers? I mean not its not literally true.
    A:cheap stuff. Free tv, cheap headphones, cheap clothes, cheap usb keys. Well they are NOT cheap to the people who make them in factories in China and Haiti. It is those people who are cheap. We are buying those cheap people. How are they so cheap? So much cheaper than we are? Child soldiers, paramilitaries, terror.
    It’s a global system. The $300 laptop exists and enriches our lives; it comes into being by the destruction of other lives, the depletion of other people’s aesthetic and intellectual energies, the ruination of their sensibilities and the starvation of their senses. Our imaginations and aesthetic experiences are enriched precisely by theirs being despoiled. It is a direct connection.

    I answered all the questions. You didn’t respond about Freud’s favouring of imperial white supremacist dictatorship, or Beckett’s suppression of the racial hierarchizing of humanity. You don’t respond to anything I say; you just insist on this one point that you reject over and over by misconstruing iot as an accusation of personal sin.

    Why would a good aesthetic education not result in people having an acute consciousness of what these objects are, how they are made and how they help reproduce the order we want to destroy? How could it leave out the main thing tnat ios meta, that is not a specifically “aesthetic” question, that does not have to do with the minute differences in qualities of consumer commodities for their users.

    The point about Zadie Smith and Kafka is your argyument is this:

    Aesthetics is not “mlerely” aesthetics – you’re not saying l’art pour l’art like some decadent egoist aestheticist – because good art radicalizes people politically.

    Thenj you say proof is Kafka. reading Kagfka radicalizes politically because of the form.

    Then I say here are some people who read Kafka, famlouskly, whom it has failed to radicalize. Taht’s an empirical challenge to your unsupported assertion that is offered as proof of your contentions about aesthetic eduication?

    But you don’t want to pursue this quesdtyiopon and argument – which is interesting -just anrgily dismiss is as meaningless and return to these assertions of personal virtue. I don’t want to endlessly make the same point but you endless rebut the same pointk, or rather reject it after you misrepresent it, and you ignore every effort I make to make this conversation about the topics you say you’re interested in

    Meaning…the connection of aesthetic education to anything/everything else;
    The specific works of Freud and Beckett and Lacan about whom you make certain claims I dispute

    I mean you admitr we are ciotiznes of today’s Nazi power:more powerful than the last. And its a cliché that we know how well the great artists served the Fuhrer and their great art paper(ed over the nature of the state and the capitaliost ruling class who patronized it.

    And no I am not saying I don’tg love Elizabeth Swartzkopf

    But isn’t this where we find ourselves now, talking about the wonderful entertainments that are being distributed under the global Nazi empire?

    You are frustrated with how people react to Obamùa. So am I. What role do these ***truly excvellent*** extertainments and “art” play, and iour truly insightful appreciation of them, our ability to rank them aesthetically, into good better best, our invitiation to others to do this with us for mlost of the time theyu’re not sleeping, working or driving, in the normalization, the legitimization, stabilization and empowerment of class organizing this art production and reaping the benefits of our spectatorship and love?

  123. “I simply do not think living within the empire means you personally are responsible for coltan miners or drones. ”

    I never said you were personally responsible for drones. Why do you talk about them? Nobody you know is responsible. They vote for Obama, not for drones.

    I never said you were responsible for the conditions of coltan miners. I aml saying their condition is a relation to you. We are related through commodities. That’s the world market. What we get paid puts entertainments out of their reach. What they get paid puts plastic surgery within our reach. That is what a commpodity is – a clumb of crystallized labour. How it is divided, how the total global product is divided, is determined by stratifications. About a billion people get to consume all the entertainments we get…these labour intensive products – and have the leisure to and still eat and ride a subway and have other stuff – because there are billions of others who do not get their share of the total product. A lot of the total human and natural resources go to us. Thus capital directs the fabrication of entertainments for us instead of housing for the people in the global slum. They can’t afford it because soldiers depress their pay. We can afford the entertainments for bartering of our attention because of the differential – not only because our pay is not depressed in the same way but because their pay is. Our pay is only a relation to their labour.

    It is very distracting to refuse to take in the significance of this because it makjes you feel bad and you just want to talk about how its not your fault, it may be my fault, which is not the interesting thing, not why we need to understand this. It is not to evaluate you personally or me personally that these relations – which people either DO NOT really find obvious or chose to IGNORE – need to be clear to us.

  124. I’m not saying art is insignificant or culture product insignificant. On the contrary I’m saying culture is powerful:it can give benefit and it can do harm. And my judgement is much of what you assess as beneficial…Freud lacan Beckett HBO series Celine abstract expressionism…does harm. Sounds Philistine to say it like that because there’s a disavowed assumption that says this stuff is all really trivial and harmless. Its a game like angels and pinheads. Deleuze can denounce Freud, Freud can denounce Marx, its all blabber because all are equally fun and harmless.their disputes are superficial and its all just about honoring their celebrity anyway.

    I dont accept the dogma that aesthetic criteria we inherit from modernism cohere with the needs of human flourishing. I don’t accept that the production of fine aesthetic experiences for a minority is somehow more godly work than the production if fine wines and comfy condos for a minority or necessarily productive of anything in them I want to encourage. The best art by accepted standards can be as easily (is often) that which serves proprietor classes and power…Dante velasquez Shakespeare pirandello Raphael Michelangelo as it is dissident. In our era people assume that nothing prevents capital itself from giving us a steady stream of radicalizing aesthetic commodities.

  125. I was going to comment until I realized my earlier comment would be the same answer. So it seems that Molly simply disagrees. To me, it’s a matter of pedagogy, channels of education, a rejection of most academic readings and presentations of what Molly finds superficial. Because it isn’t superficial, but truthfully not really taught about. Watered down and whitewashed in the same way MLK or Cesar Chavez and lots and lots of things are.

    “What they get paid puts plastic surgery within our reach. That is what a commpodity is – a clumb of crystallized labour. How it is divided, how the total global product is divided, is determined by stratifications. About a billion people get to consume all the entertainments we get…these labour intensive products”

    This is a really pious statement. Labor intensive products here also include prisons, police cars, armed high school security, and mass marketing to children. Oh how lucky we are! we “get” to ride the subway to work. We “get” to use cell phones to call our brothers in jail. We “get” to eat GMO food and go to schools that have drug sniffing dogs and pat downs at the gate. Molly, your imagined strata of privilege is informed by what feels like a great deal of guilt and angst. Learning to read art and philosophy has liberated a great deal of people. Including Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and the writer of this blog among millions of others. That is why Academia avoids grounding the theory in the realities of the police state. The global chain of consumption and profit is not “served” by Lacan, nor is it disrupted in any weird acute way that I guess it has to do in order to count in your world, but an education community is a community that does in fact create alternative models that can work. Doesn’t seem to matter to you though.

  126. “So it seems that Molly simply disagrees. To me, it’s a matter of pedagogy, channels of education, a rejection of most academic readings and presentations of what Molly finds superficial.”

    Sorry Lex, what I mean was there is an underlying assumption in the defence of the canonical thinkers – Freud, Deleuze, Marx, Nietzsche, Adorno etc – who all disagree that really their disagreements are nonsense. Their attacks on eachother are wrong because they are all equally valuable – bazsically they are envisioned as at the pluralist liberal bvanquet, our shelf of choices, to be appreciated for their variety, and all safe and scrumprious.

    This is not my view. I think much of this stuff is pernicious and I am not the only one – the entire culture wars radical contingent – 70s, 80s – which created womens studies and africana studies etc, and opened the canon, was based on this conviction that I share.

  127. The radical pedagogy that was insisted on in the revolt of the students in Universities in the 60s and 70s was precisely the pedagogy that unmasked this canon as symbolic violence, part and parcel of white supremacism and imperialism. You disagree with those judgements, fine. But it’s not valid to simply declare that position (mine, but not only mine – I didn’t invent it, I learned it) one of mindless barbarism and willed stupidity.

  128. “bazsically they are envisioned as at the pluralist liberal bvanquet, our shelf of choices, to be appreciated for their variety, and all safe and scrumprious.”

    As is MLK, Fanny Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Corky Gonzalez, etc….Goes back to my point about channels of education and pedagogy. More informed by Zapatismo and Bolivarian circles than by soon to be liberal 60’s radicalism. It’s about how a group or collective can obtain and sustain models of transformation, or basic skills building, or critical education. Malcolm’s understanding of dialectic helped him build the Nation of Islam. The Liberal class will always seek to keep thing safe, but that’s with anything.

  129. ” Labor intensive products here also include prisons, police cars, armed high school security, and mass marketing to children. Oh how lucky we are! we “get” to ride the subway to work. ”

    I’m not saying this isn’t horrible. But being horrible for you doesn’t it make it less profitable for the ruling class? This is what one is out to interfere with – the profitability, the accumulation, because that is the power. Without the profit there is no prison; Where does the profit come from? Stop the profits and you close the prison.

    The question I am asking is how does the current ruling class accumulate power and get stronger and stronger.

    Now it does this by exploiting labour, and realizing profits in the sale of the commodities produced. Our role in this is producing and consuming. The profit comes from providing you with good things and taking a cut and also torturing you and taking a cut. Both.

    I don’t want to moralize about this. I don’t see where that gets anyone. You want to stop the executions, not just establish that they are not your fault. We want to disempower capital. Right?

    To stop them you to stop capital from profiting from the provision of pleasure as well as the infliction of pain. This is not to equate pleasure and pain or to denounce those who experience less pain or anyone for trying to experience more pleasure. It is simply to recognise how the powers remain powerful and in what ways they are vulerable to our actions and how they depend on us.

    Why is this so objectionable?

    One of the most vulnerable spots of capital is luxury because we’re not structurally forced to do as we are structurally placed to do. It’s easier to retreat from watching movies than from using transport or from being locked up in prison. Yet prisoners resist and the non-prisoner television audience doesn’t. This is not really because the tv audience has understood its role in the reproduction of the prison industrial complex and decided its a worthless strategy to refuse and wouldn’t make it difference. It’s because its very pleasureable and easy to watch tv and people don’t think about it as a weak link in the world system that could be attacked.

  130. Yeah so find ways to work effectively. Support the Pelican Bay hunger strike, support labor struggles, support anything you want. But you’ve spent discounting the importance (it seems) of cultural literacy, which informs the creation of good models as well as the critical language to help reject bad ones. My earlier post about resistance unconsciously (or consciously) branding itself (badly I should add) is the result of never having watch good film or read good stuff, or had good dialogue about culture. You mentioned earlier that the Zapatistas have had success. They do community theatre and poetry as a part of their communal activities. Teatro Campesino in the San Joaquin valley has tried to emulate that part of their model. I havent seen any of it, so have no opinion, but to me it’s a relevant example.

  131. Well I agree with you Lex on the radical pedagogy. But you must also recognize then where what I am saying comes from, because it’s not my genius ehre. I am the product of a radical pedagogy, marxist and decolonial, that takes up a critical position toward such canonical stuff as Freud, does not accept that autstrohungarian empire model of consciousness with the barbaric id associated with childhood, drives and essence and the superego associated with civilization and culture and the emperor, and does not accept the advisebility of “dictatorship” within the individual psyche or in the civil body. And this same school of thinking also does prioritize *instyerad of* anything like art appreciation or close reading the dissemination of an analysis that emphasises the plunder that is coloniality – the intellectual and sensual plunder, the transfer of human life. I mean I don’t say its fun to ride the subway to work. I am here in a country undergoing a massive and sudden plunge in living standard but nobody on the left here in Greece would argue that they’re situation is at the bottom of the global hierarchy or that position physcially in the Western European territory is not a material advantage over the majority who aren’t in the “first” world (that people risk their lives daily to acquire). My experience is it’s mainly downwardly mobile white middle class Americans who are frequently insisting that they don’t want to know about their relations to the majority or to recognize their position in the hierarchy, on the pyramid of humanity, NOT at the bottom, because they only want to see their relation to the rich and to stress their own innocence. Liberation theology was so successful partly because apart from the organic intellectuals of the propertyless class you got intellectuals and managers of the middle class and upper middle class and elites (like Camillo Torres Restrepo, Bishop Romero, Jean Betrand Aristide) interested in pedagogy that was not centred on explaining how nothing was their fault but just about accurately grasping and conveying and accounting for the actual global system and accurately discovering everyone’s position in it (to determine not only wrongs but capabilities).

  132. “hey do community theatre and poetry as a part of their communal activities.”

    Yes joHn and I have discussed this before a lot. And my view is that television is really different from theatre. Also the Chavistas used a mlot of theatre.

    And I also think its demionstrable that what is often sniffed at as sentimental shit tv – telenovelas, soap operas – are the only tvb shows that have actually any historical association with socialist politics.

    So we could actually dispute the specifics of aesthetic values and judgments (my view is that much modernism is pernicious politically, though so marginal socially now that it’s not especially important) but that’s separate from my position that the media megacorps – the big 7 – are the weak link we could effectively attack as something coordinated with all the prisoners in revolt; that we don’t hjave to just mleave it to them. Theyu attack the state and the ruling class;: we have ways to attack where rdight now instead we cooperate. And our opportunities to slow the accumulation and loosen the grip begin with things that would be relatively painless by any reasonable definition but that somehow people treat as absolutely abominable suggestions – like stop watching cocaculture. People in prison stop eating in resistance to what is done to them and to others. Why cant we stop being entertained as a way to support them and attack the same powers that are torturing them?

  133. Your a product of a good education it seems too. One that allows you to frame your analysis based on an understanding of historical conditions that these voices came out of. The reason Zapatismo appeals to me so much is that they say one has to identify their conditions critically in order to form their model of building autonomy and sustainability. Your making the case for why, weather you agree or not with their writings, that they are needed to help inform effective work. Not Freud or whomever as the celebrity, but Freud as an important piece of the curriculum.

  134. “Why cant we stop being entertained as a way to support them and attack the same powers that are torturing them?”

    I don’t think anyone (here) is being entertained. John writes about culture, including TV, to help build a climate of just that. A resistance to “entertainment. But we should not fully equate hunger strikes with rejecting bad TV, because all people seek refuge in something, and I think that is healthy. The Bolivarian revolution is full of baseball fans, drunks, and and people who love reggeaton. I don’t want to go too far here, but the point is the same. Reject the bosses, but you can’t do that without some sort of literacy.

  135. And I can’t accept the answer: but it’s not just being entertained, it’s “more”, and its not like the lowly bodily unspiritual hamburgers the hunger strikers give up, it’s art. why can’t we give up art to slow the accumulation? Is the argument that it wouldn’t slow the accumulation? How do we know til we try? (clearly it would.) Is the argument that we are the keepers of civilization or something? If people stopped watching tv there would probably be tons of theatre everywhere – people would put on plays instead. This is what university students in my day used to do – we never had tvs or we ignored them. We put on shows. In university the world is encouraging to this. People are privileged with leisure and community and spaces to be. Isn’t it odd there wasn’t more drama off the cuff at Occupy? Because its the generation who is entertained by the screens, which is not just bad for them – though it is – it is bad for the people who are oppressed by the owners of those toll gates that are the screen and that route everything through them in order to get more and more powerful.

  136. Well most theatre today sucks, for the same reasons TV does, which is again, why the readings John suggests and others are important. But, then again, I don’t know what everyone not watching TV would look like. I don’t own a TV, but don’t feel that I’m doing any more effective work that other organizers I know who do watch a ton of TV. It’s not simply a generation fucked up by screens, it’s also a generation fucked up by bad theatre. In fact, I’d say that the bad theatre is more at fault that shitty TV.

  137. “I don’t think anyone (here) is being entertained.”

    Okay but I mean consuming. Nobody is really entertained by TV very often. It’s boring Few people actually say they enjoy what they watch. It’s amazing how much time people spend watching the electronic programme guide waiting for something less boring to come on. Watching critically is no less profitable than watching uncritically. I am suggesting something we could do would be to withdraw our attention labour.

    I’m not saying its some magic. I am wondering why it is seen as such an outrageous idea that one needs guarantees of tremendous immediate success before one would contemplate that refusal. It’s like saying “lets not use nail polish” and have people react like you’ve asked people to pull their nails out with pliers.

    It’s a suggestion. To begin a larger refusal of work, a larger retreat. Geyt away from the capitalist pedagogy in the learning institutions too – very important to get people away from the universities where white supremacist mythology is still treated as science.

    It’s one thing that wouldn’t harm kiddies (like boycotting food would, or refusal to pay utility bills, or refusal to work for wages) and would hurt capital.

    We could all do drugs, drink, defile the eucharist and have “deviant” sex instead just to prove it’s not puritanical if really that is troubling to someone!

  138. “I am wondering why it is seen as such an outrageous idea that one needs guarantees of tremendous immediate success before one would contemplate that refusal”

    Except nobody is suggesting it need be. In fact I’ve said the opposite over and over. I don’t watch TV but am not going to tell anyone not to. What I do want to build are spaces where engagement looks differently. I’ve done it before and am trying to learn how to do it here in NYC where space is different than where I am from. I don’t expect to see any “results” but don’t need to in order to know that it is exactly what I should be doing. Just like this blog. A space for a different kind of engagement.

  139. John Steppling says:

    Well, i have a new post. But I do think there is “more”. Molly has a problem with this. Well, ok. YOu also have a clear agenda. And i know that because you continue to put words in people’s mouth in order to articulate that agenda. But for the record….yes, there is lots of stuff that is junk. Some people enjoy and some dont. There is stuff that is very much more than junk to my mind, and often more people dont enjoy it. But often a lot do and find it transformative. Now you cant label it fun if you like. Thats you, Ms Fun. I say its more than fun. And often I use Freud, because i find it useful and valuable.

  140. I also see that these very things were suggested throughout the blog. Do the work that fosters a healthier engagement with what surrounds you. That part of it is comfortingly simple.

  141. John Steppling says:

    so, both more and people in the canon. I mean had you paid attention molly, you would have seen a lot of stuff not in the canon refrenced here. But adorno isnt wrong because he was german jew. A an old white guy. I mean at a certain point the agenda utterly distracts from the theory. You can think because you are so fixated on a specific message.Oh, i shall give voice to this …..i speak for these who have no voice. The truth is you are much more privileged than me. Our stories, and thats relevant because of the turn this thread took- So, i think lex
    s points are quite good.-

    So, i write what I think is useful, in terms of learning how to deal with mass media, corporate product and consumer culture. What I find tedious and in the end insulting, is that you seem to feel you know better and that you want to shape it to suit your perspective. Thats fine. GO and WRITE that essay. But this accusative sort of calling out from a position of demanding YOUR version of the truth is the model to be used is amazing. I wouldnt tell anyone else to this. I write what i think. Its my analysis and i teach constantly of what I believe to be true. And that debate is fine. What is far less fine is this attitude of certainty about how you INTERPRET what is , in fact, highly complex stuff. People have debated and worked on it ….on this particular topic, for fifty years. Since media became a topic. You do not debate as if you want the truth discovered. You feel you know the truth. And you like to WIN discussions. And thats tedious.

  142. “I don’t watch TV but am not going to tell anyone not to. ”

    Well I am just saying I think it would be something we could convince people to do and might be very powerful anbd effective. Like we won’t watch tv again until there is a moratorium on executions. It’s worth trying to to drive the stock down and hurt them a little. Why not try?

    ” And i know that because you continue to put words in people’s mouth in order to articulate that agenda. But for the record….yes, there is lots of stuff that is junk. Some people enjoy and some dont. There is stuff that is very much more than junk to my mind, and often more people dont enjoy it. But often a lot do and find it transformative. Now you cant label it fun if you like. Thats you, Ms Fun. I say its more than fun. And often I use Freud, because i find it useful and valuable.

    I don’t think Freud is fun I think it’s pernicious, I said so. Harmful. Wrong about hour natures and wrong is a way that is harmful when people are persuaded by it.

    It’s fun to discuss how exactly this is so however. Obviously you wouldn’t want me to take it too seriously because you think its totally harmless.

    Buyt my fatking Freud seriously doesn’t qualify as “important” to you, or something that matters, because you disagree with my judghement.

    So really what is important is revering what you approve. And what is trivial and worthless is cutlural work that you disagree with, not because its not serious enough or treats the stuff as trivial just because it differs from your tastes and attachments. Thus you only respond to my concrete engagement with Freud by saying so what you find it valuable. Why? You don’t think its worth saying why you find Freud persuasive you just insist on it dogmatically. I don’t think you can accuse me of that? I may not succeed but I always TRY VERY HARD to explain, using the texts, why I judge as I do and how I come to my conclusions and convictions. You may say in fact I am wrong about paramilitaries and military of empire depressing wages in Haiti to create our lifestyle but you cannot say I have not tried to explain my reasoning and the facts that it’s based on. You just declare it wrong! Just dogmatically. You don’t say how then, if my explanation is wrong, how then the ratio between your hour’s wage and a baseball or a week of hot water or a screen for viewing shows is determined.

    I don’t assert my account of reality dogmatiically. I laboriously explain, and then am accused of harping etc. What is your explanation for these phenomena? Where do you claim the wealth of the core public sphere comes from?

    And I reject that idea that IO am being accusing. I am trying to engage what you say. I always try to engage. I disagree on some things and you seem it offensive but you also deliberately misrepresent what I say and I fell compelled to try to clarify because I don’t want to believe you do that deliberately just to dismiss me.

    But maybe you do.

  143. And Lex I don’t think my engagement is unhealthy, either with John’s essays or plays or other people’s artwork. I am biug art consumer but I don’t think it’s all harmless and I really think it’s deliberate blind status-worship to insist on declaring Dante or Byron some kinds of radical communists or saying Celine or TS Eliot serves the same human struggle as Percy Bysshe Shelley or Amiri Baraka. I think that’s just wrong and I think it’s lazy to dismiss as an unhealthy hater for these judgements and for these serious engagements that lead to them.

  144. “People have debated and worked on it ….on this particular topic, for fifty years. Since media became a topic. You do not debate as if you want the truth discovered. You feel you know the truth. ”

    So now you are criticising me because I have actually bothered to read this fifty years worth of mediology and not start from scracth and do respoonsioble research so that I can assume certain things and begin with some established knowlegde? That’s now a bad thing? One has to be bewildered and thumb sucking infant who knows nothing and begins at square one every day to authentically engage? If this stuff is atr all worthwhile, I have read it – you mean McLuhan, Ong, Kittler, Luhmann and Entzensberger, Baudrillard, Débray, I assume? – why should I pretend I don’t know it? Why should I pretend all these people for fiufty years acoomplished nothing and so we all have to begin from scratch as if nothing was known? Everything’s mere free speculation?

    Is m actually havgn a conviction unseemly? Yeah I do believe I KNOW SOME THINGS. It’s like now one is not allowed to be an adult with confidence in one’s views – not the hunches but the ones one has considered and evolved and been responsible in establishing a basis for.

    I don’t think i’m any more confidence about the topics of my interests and profession than you are about yours. We just disagree and you consider my concerns trivial and I consider your concerns important but narrow because you dismiss my concerns as trivial.

    I don’t accept this makes me some kind of nuisance or moron.

  145. ‘But adorno isnt wrong because he was german jew’

    about some things he was famously wrong and his being a bourgeois german forcibly othered from his own culture by nazis had probably much to do with his incapacity to understand some things.

    ‘i speak for these who have no voice. The truth is you are much more privileged than me.’ so what? a) you dont recogniwe that as deter;ining and b) Im not more privilleged than Freud or Beckett or nobel laureate Pinter.

    Imn ot speaking for the voiceless< I keep mentioning the people I have learned from as you have learned from these great bourgeois thinkers. You just ignore those I mention. They have voices, you personally just dont want to hear them. They are much more disseminated than I am.

  146. Adorno’s opinions about jazz were just a more nuanced version of Goebbels’ propaganda on it (and arguably sharing the racism, using different terms of critique). It always comes to mind when I see arbitrary distinctions made between ‘art’ and ‘not art’.

  147. That’s a huge exaggeration RE Adorno on Jazz.

  148. “However little doubt there can be regarding the African elements of jazz, it is no less certain that everything unruly in it was from the very beginning integrated into a strict scheme, that its rebellious gestures are accompanied by the tendency to blind obeisance, much like the sado-masochistic type described by analytic psychology, the person who chafes against the father figure while secretly admiring him, who seeks to emulate him and in turn derives enjoyment from the subordination he overtly detests.”

    “The aim of jazz is the mechanical reproduction of a regressive moment, a castration symbolism. ‘Give up your masculinity, let yourself be castrated,’ the eunuchlike sound of the jazz band both mocks and proclaims, ‘and you will be rewarded, accepted into a fraternity which shares the mystery of impotence with you, a mystery revealed at the moment of the initiation rite.”

    Infantilizing, ahistorical, condescending, essentializing, Hegelian, pseudo-scientific ‘anthropology’ – basically peddling (short-lived, market-created) Euro-bourgeois notions of ‘art’ (and ‘Oedipus’) on a higher plane to the ‘primitive’ fetishism of we, the childlike jungle-mass still dealing with our potty-training on the dancefloor. The Nazis used similar shit (for more lethal ends) for defining ‘degenerate’ art.

  149. john steppling says:

    I dont think anyone disagrees he was confused by jazz. But its absurd to lay it off as racism. If you look at his whole project, the sense he had of jazz of was dance music. He had very little real knowledge of jazz………that doesnt excuse his mistake, but its bizarre to call its Nazi like racsim.

  150. He had no context on Jazz, and in most ways was incorrect, but elements of what he said are true for all popular American music. Cleaver explores it a lot in Soul On Ice.

  151. He should have been writing about Jay-Z or Lil Wayne.

  152. There’s at least a deep sense of Eurocentrism there. It’s when he (and others who – like now – hold up ‘modernism’ as more noble and civilizing vision of ‘the totality’ than messy, contradictory, post-colonial ‘postmodernism’) get somewhat Humbert Humbert-ish. Disgusted and aloof, but unable to disentangle themselves from the ‘baser’, more ‘childish’ and ‘regressive’ appeal of that which threatens to overwhelm their sense of intellectual omniscience.

  153. john steppling says:

    I guess I dont see that in Adorno. I mean if you read him on anti semitism, he discusses quite a lot about the Enlightenment vs its various reactions and corrections. And Im not sure he isn’t pretty cogent on this…….I mean euro centric, i guess, maybe, but we better clearly define that and discuss it before using it as an off hand perjorative. Really, I guess i probably find post modernism sort of reactionary in the end. And maybe i should do a post on that, since its come up a few times.

  154. I find post-modernism as reactionary as modernism really. Sometimes not, sometimes very much so (can the architecture of banks, or neo-colonial pastiche movies, be so easily lumped in with hiphop or queer theory?)

    Like with comments above, I’m mainly discussing it from the perspective of the UK, but it’s odd how ‘modernism’ aquires the aura of some magic ticket. Where even full-on fascists (or at least serious reactionaries) like Stravinsky, Heidegger or Pound are held up as nobler alternatives to the ‘neoliberal’ clutter of today.

  155. john steppling says:

    NO argument from me on that. And I do think your point about architecture for example is really interesting. Ive been reading a lot of blog stuff on architechture of late… stuff, trying to see where the International School sort of imprinted this authoritarian grammer about space. And this is why i think adorno isnt racist……I mean i get it, and i know the argument, but when he wrote about wagner (which i mention oddly) what he objected to was this repetitive beat……..which he saw as boots marching, and a baton duplicating the dictator’s gestures etc. This is what he ‘thought’ jazz was. He meant dance music, pop music, pablum……….he had a weird project connected to music. He once said whistling a tune badly is like a child pulling on a dog’s tail. He was overly invested in Shoenberg and Wagner. And so i think by his later years he was sort of fixated on this.

    My feeling about post modernism, and i guess i should write on it so we can talk abou it…….is that there is no there there. Its just a post script to modernism, and mostly incorporating the worst aspects of modernism. But its a big topic……….and i would probably defend pound’s poetry up to a certain year anyway. But its not a easy position to take. Heidegger is even more complicated, although in the end he is so CLEARLY a fucking nazi, and his thought ends in nazi worship…..but he still did manage a pretty interesting gloss on the pre socratics. And yeah, here………..speaking of hip hop………..

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