True/Not True

holdsworth highway night

Tom Brokaw of NBC news:
no question about it. we’re so an open society and vulnerable to attacks every day. everyone has to understand tonight, however, beginning tomorrow morning early there’s going to be much tougher security considerations across the country. however exhausted we may be by them. we have to live with them and get along and go forward and not let them bring us to our knees. you will remember last summer we were unhappy with the conventions. now i don’t think that we could raise the complaints of what happened today in boston.

It seems clear that whether or not the government had anything to do with the Boston Marathon Bombings (more on that below) the state will seize the opportunity (as it did with 9-11) to intensify their control of the potentially ever more angry and frustrated population. Millionaire white men like Tom Brokaw see the world only through their own very privileged lens. Brokaw doesn’t have to ‘live with’ the repressions of state security, it’s not really an inconvenience to him. That’s for the rest of us. But what I have been thinking about a lot this week, amid the questions of state propaganda, and cover ups, and of FBI policies of entrapment is more of what lurks within the psyche of both the authoritarian mind and those who are most vulnerable to the increasing state domination of daily life. There are pretty clear material explanations, in a sense, for a privileged elite wanting to retain control, but that doesn’t explain everything by any means.

boston cops

Watching the police march the naked Tsnaraev brother toward the waiting police vehicle, one could not fail but to register the sexual dimension of these images. Pasolini was the great investigator of the sado/masochistic role in fascism. I think, though, that almost all artists sense the sexual tensions of power, and intuit the ways in which our mental development is linked the the sexual. The violence toward women, to populations that are least able to resist state violence of either gender, the need for the state to express domination over people who pose no threat, all is impossible to look at without including some investigation into our own sexuality.

The classic Freudian construct of the Oedipal complex is primarily a masculine complex. Post Freudians have sort of over shifted or over corrected to focus in equally one sided ways on the Mother. But here is exactly the point at which the questions of society arise. Paul Verhaeghe has pointed out that the late modern family first posited a father who had lost his absolute authority, to a construction in which the father is literally missing. Single parent families are usually single mother families. The missing or absent father, both socially, and psychologically, is worth considering in light of the ratcheting up of violence against the powerless….male and female. The war on the poor.

mariani face

The reactionary call for a return to traditional values and structure is itself a desire for the authoritarian father. This is, in a sense, the unresolved Oedipus complex. But nothing happens in a vacuum, and any discussion of the Oedipul must look at the specific historical forces shaping it at any particular moment. But however you examine these specifics, the backdrop is always how we aquire our sense of identity. The truth is, all narrative is crime narrative. All narrative is also, if explanatory, the explanations of a paternal authority. The need to explain is itself a dimension of white patriarchy borrowed from the Enlightenment. Thus, the artist must see that from within contradictions will emerge the truth, even if illegible. For the writer must be at war with the exposition.


“Beware of understanding”
Jacques Lacan

The master narrative is always predicated on the belief in having the facts to back it up.

If one listens to apologists for Obama’s increasingly draconian drone wars and terror, one will hear that somehow Obama had no choice. He “has” to do certain things, that deep down he is a compassionate caring man. The reality is that those who utter such things don’t really think he is a good man, but they DO think he has to be the master, the father, the authority. What they are really saying is, he HAS to do those things, because he is the President (i.e., he must be there as a paternal authority). They don’t really care if an entire population is being terrorized by unmanned drones, they only care that he is *protecting* them… even if they don’t believe they are being protected. Often they didn’t believe their fathers were protecting them, but they never said that. They said they loved their fathers. There is a lurking echo of incestuous prohibitions in having the authority figure there, knowing full well that the authority figure is lying. He *has* to lie. In a society more and more polarized, in terms of wealth, class, and privilege, the deposed patriarchs of the working poor, the non unionized powerless fathers, must duplicate the violence done them by recreating it in a violence against their wives, girlfriends and children — and against outside scapegoats (Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, etc). The modern corporate funded athlete is a substitute authority — the current pop culture obsession with “warriors”, the eroticizing of power within a carefully controlled frame (the sports arena). But these psychoanalytical explanations are themselves (as Lacan suggested) also the product of patriarchal complexes.

demand stairs doors

Obama is more successful than Bush because he is viewed as more potent. For all the cartoon cowboy drag indulged in by Bush, the performance never really stuck. His essential weakness as the fuck up son of a rich powerful family clung to him like cheap cologne. Obama is svelte, educated, and virile. He is also black — he is the enclosed ‘other’, made acceptable by virtue of his cruelty.

The longing for authoritarian fathers is echoed in a lot of post modern theory; in Zizek most obviously, but also in Badiou and certainly in much of this new adolescent left that embraces its persona as mature and reasonable. As well adjusted. Adjustment being the new model for the clerks of empire; the puer aeternus vibe one detects in the new Dave Eggers version of Marxist thought found in several new publications and blogs, or the making heroic of insurance salesmen and clerks. In all the neurotic subject expresses a desire for the Father.

Verhaeghe suggests that Freud’s invention of a meta-reality that was created to justify his theory (in other words reality was made to fit neatly into theory) is used to explain the contradictions of his Oedipul theory. Those contradictions reside most acutely in the gendering of prohibition. The feminine as inherently bad or wrongly seductive.

beheading of john bab

Lacan revised this to a degree with the incestuous desire of the Mother (the crocodile mother). The problem here, in both Freud and Lacan is that a hyper reality is needed to make the narrative work. And it is misogynist in both cases. This is not to say, there aren’t insights to be found. What strikes me, however, is what I felt when looking over the official stories and images of the Boston bombings. The man with his legs blown off — the naked suspect marched under police control — the private security men also carrying back packs — all of it highly dubious. The man with his legs blown off was no doubt a real photograph of a real person, but it is also not real. This cuts to the heart of the truth about social domination as it exists today. For image is both real and unreal, both true and not true. In fact, its realness, its provability, is an embed in the basic discourse of domination. This also connects to how our sense of identity is formed.

dyn corp

The reflexive stigmatizing of those reacting to unreality by calling them ‘conspiracy theorists’ is the expression of an aggression not unlike that of any claim to the absolute made by the patriarch — conspiracy theorist is short hand for feminine. For too weak to confront “reality”. The real world, the *its a tough world out there* meme so popular with the new left and right alike. This is the mirror image in a sense of the docile compliant subject, the ‘good citizen’ who offers no objection to his own subjugation. Pitchin’ or catchin’, its all baseball (as my own father used to say).

“All women love a fascist”.
Slyvia Plath

The mirror phase described by Lacan presents some clues to this unreality — the passive infant as object of pleasure for the Mother, is left with only bad choices, only obstacles for the creation of its subjectivity. This is the Lacanian interpretation of anxiety. The infant’s relationship to the Mother has been written about a good deal. Attachment theory has gained a lot of traction in the West, even as it has garnered a lot of criticism. The problem with all this is that is that none of it really delves into the realm of the darker issues that sort of haunt western culture. For the mirror phase reflects the discourse of the Other (Lacan)– and herein lies the area most opaque to theory, of necessity. This is also some of the more complex writings by Lacan, and I only wanted to touch on them here, but for the purposes of my observations, such as they are, the Other is multi-tiered, layered, and is both discourse and body.

So, here we have a society, probably not coincidentally, ever more fearful of art and culture. A society driven on left and right alike by deep resentments and anxieties. The difference being that for the pure fascist the aggression is closer to the surface, and hence more destructive. Nobody escapes, and learning this might be one of the lessons and purposes of art. I suspect there is a paradox in play, though. The fascist’s sexual repression, being more acute, must be buried with more kitsch. This is where sentimentality enters, the paintings of Thomas Kinkade I wrote about, or Bush’s fluffy white puppies. The stink of aggression must be deodorized — figuratively the fascist always resorts to cheap perfume and cologne. The smell of cheap hair oil is one mark of the sadistic interrogator.


In narrative, the redemptive is akin to cheap perfume. The Forrest Gump storyline or any maudlin melodrama is affirmation of this death drive. It is sex negative and life negative. The sober tragic is really the expression of a discourse that moves beyond grief to awareness and awakening, even if undifferentiated. The tragic is Dionysian. It is a release. The acceptance of contradiction is double edged. For there are contradictions and there are contradictions. The contradictions of police reports on Chris Dorner’s death are not the same as absence of explanation in narrative that eschews logical linear development. State Department briefings are different than Pinter. Belief in the official version of Boston or 9-11 is an expression of self loathing. Of impotence, and consequential self hatred. This is the same psychological make up that demands stories ‘have a point’. The demand that narrative and discourse reach a goal is the same as that of a torturer insisting the person being tortured provide information, even if its known to be false. Resolution is usually reactionary. It is usually a form of violence.

I cannot think of a great piece of writing that explains anything.


The Lacanian notion of a lack, of a gap, between the child’s experience and representation, the ‘real’ is crucial to understanding our experience of contradiction in narrative, as well. There is a basic insufficiency in both ourselves, and the Other. Without going into this at too great a length, the identification with the desire of the Other means the positing of a loss at the heart of our formation of an identity. The Oedipal drama, however one adjusts the terms, remains in its essential outline, something worth examining, for as this society slides further into new forms of alienation, as the dismantling of patriarchy happens regardless of the cultural denials — in the same way Tom Brokaw can ignore most of the people in the country he believes he is addressing — there will be deeper fissures in an already unstable collective identity. More and more awareness of this lack seems destined to produce more and more violence against those identified as easy *soft’ targets (a terms itself worth pondering). The sexual drama of our selves is reproduced in its most toxic form in the authoritarian white male world. Lacan said limitless love can only exist outside the limits of the law. The contradictions of the Boston story, the same as the lies about Waco or the Murrah Building, or Iran Contra, or the countless innocent men sitting on death row — means we have to see that nothing is true, and everything is true. The role of art is to express the true, even if it cannot be understood. These are the enigmas and the orphic and vatic realm of divinity, really.

The man had his legs blown off. True. The photograph was false. Reverse those terms, and both are also true and not true. For the falsity resides in the discourse of violence and domination. The Tsnaraev brothers are fictions, no, they are terrorists. It doesn’t matter. The greater terror is a society pointing guns are people in their own homes. At families, at children. Craft Security is a company run by a psychotic former sniper. Hollywood is making a movie about him. Dyn Corp has a record of human trafficking, prostitution, and brutality. They were awarded a contract to go to Haiti. For Haiti has not had enough brutality and violence. Let me look that up…..yup…..deficits in suffering. Send Dyn Corp.

“In other words, we are training our young citizens to live in a culture where the expect they are always being watched. And we want them to be chilled, we want them to be deterred, we want them not to ever challenge orthodoxy or to explore limits where engaging creativity in any kind. This type of surveillance, by design, breeds conformism. That’s its purpose. that’s what makes surveillance so pernicious.

The last point I want to make is this. One of the points about the Surveillance State, one of the things that happens is that, the way in which it affects how people think and behave is typically insidious. It’s something that is very potent and yet it’s very easy to avoid understanding or realizing. Now sometimes people do know about the effects of the Surveillance State and the climate of fear it creates.”
Glenn Greenwald

From Robert Bly’s Viet Nam era poem
The Teeth Mother Naked at Last

A green parrot shudders under the fingernails.
Blood jumps in the pocket.
The scream lashes like a tail.
“Let us not be deterred from our task by the voices
of dissent. . . .”
The whines of the jets
pierce like a long needle,
As soon as the President finishes his press conference,
black wings carryoff the words,
bits of flesh still clinging to them.
* * *
The ministers lie, the professors lie, the television lies,
the priests lie. . . .
These lies mean that the country wants to die.
Lie after lie starts out into the prairie grass,
like enormous caravans of Conestoga wagons. . . .
And a long desire for death flows out, guiding the
enormous caravans from beneath,
stringing together the vague and foolish words.
It is a desire to eat death,
to gobble it down,
to rush on it like a cobra with mouth open
It’s a desire to take death inside,
to feel it burning inside, pushing out velvety hairs,
like a clothes brush in the intestines—
This is the thrill that leads the President on to lie
* * *
Now the Chief Executive enters; the press
conference begins:
First the President lies about the date the Appalachian
Mountains rose.
Then he lies about the population of Chicago, then he lies
about the weight of the adult eagle, then about the
acreage of the Everglades

He lies about the number of fish taken every year in the
Arctic, he has private information about which city is
the capital of Wyoming, he lies about the birthplace of
Attila the Hun.
He lies about the composition of the amniotic fluid, and
he insists that Luther was never a German, and that
only the Protestants sold indulgences,
That Pope Leo X wanted to reform the church, but the
“liberal elements” prevented him,
that the Peasants’ War was fomented by Italians
from the North.
And the Attorney General lies about the time the
sun sets.
* * *
These lies are only the longing we all feel to die.
It is the longing for someone to come and take you by the
hand to where they all are sleeping:
where the Egyptian pharaohs are asleep, and your
own mother,
and all those disappeared children, who used to go
around with you in the rings at grade school. . . .
Do not be angry at the President—he is longing to take
in his hand
the locks of death hair—
to meet his own children dead, or unborn. . . .

Migrant workers, Shanghai

Migrant workers, Shanghai


  1. Excellent piece. As my brain cannot properly digest this work on a screen, I shall print it out and read it. Perhaps we can establish a non-internet link? I will send you my postal address, as I prefer to communicate via letter, then I can send you my thoughts, in more detail and off this blasted screen in more detail with more depth.

    Warmly, Eilif

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