Privatizing Emotions

Janne Tuunanen, photography.

“But habitual identification with the aggressor also frequently occurs in people who have not suffered severe trauma, which raises the possibility that certain events not generally considered to constitute trauma are often experienced as traumatic.”
Jay Frankel (Identification with the Aggressor)

“These children feel physically and morally helpless…for the overpowering force and authority of the adult makes them dumb and can rob them of their senses. The same anxiety, however, if it reaches a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves they identify themselves with the aggressor.”
Sandor Ferenczi (Confusion of Tongues, 1933)

“…the dominant aim has become a curriculum designed for tests, and the result is… barren and anti-intellectual.”
Joan Clancy (headmistress, North London Collegiate School)

A year of lockdowns has transpired with no end in sight. People I know well continue to postulate about things returning to normal, when ‘all this is over’. Putting aside for a moment if there is any reason to think anything will return to normal, or what that even means, there is the question of why there has been so little resistance to the decrees by governments over this last year. An entire year. And people continue to don masks (now being manufactured widely) and social distance and to passively accept the suspension of all social activity. I find this remarkable.

“This, then, becomes the basis for the meta-psychological account which, in The Authoritarian Personality, is tested by Adorno and his collaborators via empirical research on the fascist potential in American university students. The relative weakness of the ego in relation to the societal super-ego leads to an excessive form of obedience to external authorities. But for this to be bearable, the authoritarian personality type evinces, as well, a high degree of aggresion towards those who are relatively socially powerless.As Hitler himself put it:“Vertanwortung nach oben,Authorität nach unten”(“Responsibility towards those above,authority towards those below”) (Adorno,1990).This is why the authoritarian personality is also referred to as the “sadomasochistic” personality—the personality type that is sadistically cruel and potentially violent towards the weak and masochistically self-subordinating vis-à-vis the dominant social order.”
Samir Gandesha (Identification with the Aggressor; From the Authoritarian to Neoliberal Personality)

But we are living in an age of psychological disfigurement. Massive learning problems I would associate with screen habituation, and with a growing pressure from a propaganda that is directed at psychological discipline and which serves to further weaken the ego.

The propaganda that is created by global media corporations, and by governments (overlapping a good deal) has changed over the last decade. And the changes are intertwined with the role social media plays in the lives of most westerners. Even people who do not spend a lot of time on-line are today subject to the effects of internet propaganda. And social media has gradually, incrementally really, shifted its parameters (including an enormous uptick in censorship) so that the target is no longer the selling of commodities, or even the capture of eyeballs, but is more the conditioning and indoctrination of the populace. And this conditioning is experienced, certainly on a collective level, as pathological.

Popel Coumou

Ganesha quotes from Dialectic of Enlightenment: “Everything must be used, everything must belong to them. The mere existence of the other is a provocation.Everything else “gets in the way” and must be shown their limits—the limits of limitless horror.No one who seeks shelter shall find it; those who express what everyone craves—peace, homeland, freedom—will be denied it,just as the nomads and traveling players have always been refused rights of domicile. “
Horkheimer & Adorno

He also quotes from a late lecture Adorno gave on Hegel…“For this reason,therefore,we might say,putting it in dialectical terms,that what appears to be positive is essentially the negative,i.e.the thing that is to be criticized.” This is very much at the heart of Adorno’s thinking, and its related directly to the propaganda machine of the U.S. It is also tied into sentimentality and notions of positive thinking. From Norman Vincent Peale right up to Joe Biden, the voice of the smiley face is dominant in western culture. The smiling face is the alibi for any act of sadism and cruelty. And this smiling positivity is tied into the pernicious idea of responsibility and duty.

“Hatred of patients is behind the hypocritical friendliness of the doctor toward the patients.”
Sandor Ferenczi (Diary)

Ferenczi is important because of his deep insights into problems of hypocrisy, authoritarianism and policing, and bigotry. He wrote of the ‘white terror’ in Hungary where the persecution of Jews became acute. I think the idea of how hypocricy is internalized, just as the smiley face is internalized, is very germane to today’s propaganda and the shaping of consensus. Or consensuses. For there is a constant assembly line of consensuses that the populace is coerced to believe and internalize. To make a part of themselves. Ferenczi wrote of the supressed rage of educators and parents toward children.

Tagreed Dargouth

“In the Diary, Ferenczi regards benevolence, “excessive goodness”, as a manifestation of the overcompensated sadism of obsessional neurotics.”
Ferenc Eros (Against Non-Violence)

In today’s world of institutional culture one is often confronted with an over-valuation of innovation. Ideas about originality and innovation are tied in directly with sentimentality and excessive goodness. Nowhere in contemporary society can one trust a voice espousing care or concern for ‘victims’.

This focus on innovation in the arts is a deflection away from quality. It is anti spiritual and smacks of that American penchant for pragmatism and progress. From whence came the idea that innovation was artistically valuable? It is a way to reward compliance with infantilism and the positive without having to delve any deeper. It is also something not entirely removed from identity focused art. Whenever one hears a curator or critic or artist talking about the art ‘exploring’ this or that, it is guaranteed to be junk. Art does not explore. The innovative is a substitute label for trivial, usually. Any great art, by the way, is de facto innovative if one wants to really look at the meaning of the word. Innovative art is always positive, too. The tragic cannot be innovative.

Dying Achilles. Ernest Herter, 1884.

But along side the infantilism of innovative is the bathos of public displays of compassion. And that in turn nearly always includes a variety of cliches (my heart goes out to them, etc). The debasement of language has meant that innovation in literature tends toward the structural. Experimental is another word that often replaces innovation. But here one has to look at the socially affirmative society of the last quarter of the 20th century on through to today. And the manner in which debt has become intwined with personal guilt and shame. The debt of one’s country is subtly connected to personal narratives of failure or disappointment. The emotions are financialized.

“We place no trust in altruistic feeling, we who lay bare the aggressivity that underlies the activity of the philanthropist, the idealist, the pedagogue, and even the reformer.”
Jacques Lacan (Mirror Stage, from Reading French Psychoanalysis, D. Birksted-Breen)

As I have noted before, modern antisemitism now subs in Mexicans or Muslims or Chinese or Russians. In Trump’s administration the focus began with Mexicans, which as Moishe Postone notes of Jews, were abstract and rootless. And ‘international’. Mexicans did not meet the international definition so Russians soon tagged in. This WWF spectacle of temporary bad guys fit well with privitized emotions. And in each case the public expression was one of ersatz compassion (my heart goes out to…). The propaganda generated by Biden is deeper and more linked to historical forms of resentment and guilt. And here it is useful to remember Adorno’s ideas on ‘secondary antisemitism’. Which in short form was the blaming of Jews for reminding Germans of their own guilt. (its more complex than that, but…).

Wanda Wulz, photography.

“With the failed development and autonomy of the subject accompanying the modern socialization process, authoritarian subjects become “prisoners of their own weakened ego.” The ego identity that arises is both compulsive and constrained. As Fromm writes, they pay for the “alliance of authority and superego with the surrender of autonomy and…sovereignty.” That is to say, the authoritarian subject survives by repetition of the violence to which he was subjected and by social conformity vis- à- vis the embodiments of unmitigated power.”
Lars Rensmann (The Politics of Unreason)

Now it is important to remember that there are also concrete material forces at work that helped shape the rise of fascism. The weakening of the ego was the result of very specific historical conditions.

“…the political dynamism of the Nazi movement owed its success to a general state of instability in Germany, which was wholly artificial, a wreckage engineered by the Anglo-American clubs themselves. By ‘clubs’ and ‘elites’ I mean the established and self-perpetuating fraternities that ruled the Anglo-Saxon commonwealths: these were (and
still are) formed by an aggregation of dynasts issued from the banking houses, the diplomatic corps, the officer caste, and the executive aristocracy, which still remains solidly entrenched in the constitutional fabric of the modern ‘democracies.’ These ‘clubs’ act, rule, breed and think like a compact oligarchy, and co-opt the middle class to use it as a filter between themselves and their cannon fodder: the commoners.”

Guido Giacomo Preparata (Conjuring Hitler)

Karen Carson

This is a very relevant paragraph for the contemporary moment. Given the artificial crisis of Covid, the renewed environmental focus, presented with a patent urgency. Clubs and elites, Gates and Bezos and Silicon Valley as well as the Koch Brothers and various royal houses in Europe. After all the second world war was not that long ago.

The support of Nazism by the British ruling class is well documented. And the residue of those tentacles of support linger today. Well, more than linger, but they are always being rebranded and re-invented. (think Klaus Schwab for one).

Allow me a longer quote here from Preparata.

“In modern bureaucratized systems, whose birth dates from the mid-nineteenth century, the feudal organization has been carried to the next level, so to speak. A chief objective of what Thucydides referred to in his epoch as synomosiai (literally ‘exchanges of oaths’), that is, the out- of-sight fraternities acting behind the ruling clans, has been to make the process of the exaction of rents from the population (a ‘free income’ in the form of rents, financial charges and like thefts) as unfathomable and impenetrable as possible. The tremendous sophistication, and the propagandistic wall of artfully divulged misconceptions surrounding the banking system, which is the chief instrument wherewith the hierarchs expropriate and control the wealth of their supporting community, is the limpid testimony of this essential transformation undergone by the feudal/oligarchic organization in the modern era.” (Ibid)

Giuseppe Cavalli, photography.

So the point here is that both blue and white collar workers are mortgaged to the point of living death. I noted in the last podcast that as recently as the early 70s, an artist could live in NYC (or most any city, actually) without really having to work. Or having to work much. One could get by, scrounge, and find enough to eat and still create, write or play or paint. The culture supported, to some degree, the idea of an avant garde art class. That is no longer true, and in fact even most white collar workers are exhausted and worn out by early middle age.

The parable of Covid encloses, among other things, the figure of the already damaged, terrorized, emotionally dispossessed, and physically weak modern individual. The class hierarchy includes health, both mental and physical, as well as wealth. And this reminds me of something Rainer Mausfeld said in an interview; that the news, mainstream news, can print the truth, but it is decontextualized, fragmented, and so it becomes a legitimation for the system, for the ruse of democracy. For there it is, you can look it up, the truth about, say, Syria, is there to be read, but it doesn’t matter. There is an exhaustion, mentally, from trying to piece together this fragmented floating jumble of information. As he puts, the “idea of man that neolibralism presents is a flexible, conditioned, bundle of partial skills.” And this is, of course, intentional. And it leads to exhaustion of the entire organism.

Unknown Flemish workshop. 16th century. (Allegory of Gluttony )

Now, to return to the identification with the aggressor. My sense of the contemporary passivity in the West is linked to the damaging effects of the screen. And to mass media overall. It is useful to recognize just how pernicious is both Hollywood and social media.

Freud saw an ego that, like the Id, seeks pleasure and avoids unpleasure. This is the pleasure principle in short order. The ego, Freud noted, is not divided from the id. The boundaries are not constant (as he says).The ego learns to negotiate the outside world. It mediates between the Id and the outer world. Mediates *reality* in a sense. At some mysterious point the Ego no longer is everything, but separates. The external world becomes, well, external.

The ego wants gratification but it must adhere to the reality principle. The ego sublimates the drives. Ok, so, the third agency is the super ego. This is the sign of parental authority.

“Ego development is the source of consciousness,but in a bourgeois society it remains precarious and it can founder on unconscious antagonisms: a weak ego, unfit for reality, overpowering or zealously repressed drives, and a rigid, archaic superego.”
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

As Freud notes, the super-ego functions as “an aggressiveness which [has] been displaced inwards.”
At this point the Oedipal drama unfolds. And whether one accepts it (I for the most do, for the record) or not, the issue is the way that this psychic development incorporates aggression. And here it is worth noting the myriad theories of the ‘lesser father’, the household where the patriarch is weak, or even nearly invisible.

Fethi Sahraoui, photography.

The resolution of the Oedipal drama yields an individual who becomes his own disciplining cop. The occupation of the psyche by an archaic and hardened super-ego is akin to the SWAT teams that kick in doors of the inner city. And over the last several decades there has grown a kind of passive authority, a screen boss, that children sense as both powerful and yet ephemeral, but emotionless.

“Ferenczi also wrote about how splitting, dissociation, and introjection combine to minimise the child’s fear and psychic pain by creating a soothing, false reality alongside her frightened, urgent focus on the real aggressor. The suffering part of the person is “repressed” (Diary), leaving an emotionless “guardian angel” (ibid.) to cope with impinging reality while anaesthetizing the feeling part of the personality with “consolation fantasies” (ibid.) and hallucinations: “Through the identification, or let us say, introjection of the aggressor, he disappears as part of the external reality, and becomes intra- instead of extra-psychic; the intra-psychic is then subjected, in a dream-like state as is the traumatic trance, to the primary process … it can be modified or changed by the use of positive or negative hallucinations. In any case the attack as a rigid external reality ceases to exist.” Anaesthetising the child’s feeling.”
Jay Frankel (Ibid)

The emotionless guardian angel. And the grotesque measures administered during the lockdowns (social distancing, masks, restrictions on movement, et al) are furthering an already operative sex negative morality. A covid morality that is directed inward, firstly. A morality patrolled by that inner SWAT team.

“Those who have not experienced love, according to Freud, are unable to establish, or fully establish, a superego within the ego, resulting in a severe deformation of the life of the drives. The subject either internalizes a renunciation of the drives or the drives are redirected; a repudiation of the libido, in turn, unleashes aggression that is directed inward, whether by the force of the authority figure or out of fear of the loss of the authority figure’s love.”
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

Barnett Newman (etching)

Allow me another quote from Frankel on Ferenczi:

“Mental accommodation includes, first, dissociation. In addition to evacuating her own experiential reality so she can bear the assault and focus completely on and identify with the abuser, the child also dissociates particular perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that could interfere with playing her role well. Ferenczi said, “In order to ensure silence, also internal silence: forgetting, repression” (Diary). The child, terrified of exclusion, faces the dilemma succinctly articulated by Marx (Groucho): “Who you gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?”—and chooses the former. Dissociation can range from doubting one’s perceptions or the validity of one’s feelings, to blocking particular feelings or memories, to being completely unable to think or feel, or—most extreme—even to remain conscious (Diary). Jettisoning one’s own direct experience removes the foundation for the
senses of authenticity and agency.”


Culturally, as noted above, it is ever harder to find time to meditate, reflect, and work at one’s craft or art. Long walks are a luxury. And in a sort of digression (though not really), I mentioned Scorsese’s article in the Atlantic (mentioned on the last podcast) on Fellini. That era that is described at the beginning is all gone. And this in turn reminded me of Eric Auerbach’s classic Mimesis. And in particular the chapter on the King James Bible and Homer. For that was the essential split in western literature. For Homer led to Tolstoy, to Moliere, to Ibsen and George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, and to Cinemascope.

Zied Ben Romdhane, photography.

The King James Bible led to Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky, Melville, and to Kafka and film noir, to Beckett and Genet and Pinter, and to Val Lewton. This is the a roadmap for the uses of narrative, in a sense. The propaganda machinery of the West and certainly of 20th century fascism, operates (mostly) from the Homer side of the ledger. For that is the expository, that through complete description one is building a blueprint (sic). It is also, via Auerbach, really the language of National Socialism. But more on that below. The KJB side is one of casting doubt and embracing the mystery, the mythic, the uncanny.

“We find the same contrast if we compare the two uses of direct discourse. The personages speak in the Bible story too; but their speech does not serve, as does speech in Homer, to manifest, to externalize thoughts—on the contrary, it serves to indicate thoughts which remain unexpressed. “
Eric Auerbach (Mimesis)

Homer leads as well to Desi Arnez and the 3 camera sitcom. And while this starts to feel like a parlour game, the KJB follows through to Rothko, and Homer to Piscasso. The representational path is, I think, more prone to deformation and corruption. It is the path of instrumental thought. It externalizes. The psychological condition of the Homeric character is forthright, their emotions are simple and find expression.

“Abraham’s actions are explained not only by what is happening to him at the moment, nor yet only by his character (as Achilles’ actions by his courage and his pride, and Odysseus’ by his versatility and foresightedness), but by his previous history; he remembers, he is constantly conscious of, what God has promised him and what God has already accomplished for him—his soul is torn between desperate rebellion and hopeful expectation; his silent obedience is multilayered, has background.”
Eric Auerbach (Ibid)

Erich Heckel (The Magician)

The Old Testament character is self reflective in a way the Homeric character is not. But his self reflection is interrogative, and while Odysseus may, indeed, examine his actions he is not troubled or hesitant in his conclusions. One emotion follows another, and each is examined without confusion.

“But the most important thing is the “multilayeredness” of the individual character; this is hardly to be met with in Homer, or at most in the form of a conscious hesitation between two possible courses of action; otherwise, in Homer, the complexity of the psychological life is shown only in the succession and alternation of emotions;
whereas the Jewish writers are able to express the simultaneous existence of various layers of consciousness and the conflict between them. “

Eric Auerbach (Ibid)

The Greek text is syntactically more sophisticated, but psychologically less so. This in a sense is where Auerbach starts his survey of representations of reality in western literature. I think the realism embodied in Homer did not infect all Greek art forms. Sophocles for example was not representing reality. But it did seem to carry on in administrative form, institutional form, and emerge again with the Enlightenment as the voice of science. Of rationality. Now why the Homeric externalizing voice was to be the voice of rationality is a huge question and I do recognize that the premise is a bit shaky and reductive. But there is also truth in in.

The critique of the Enlightenment included, really, Moretti’s extraordinary analysis of World Bank language (New Left Review). And the strange unconscious of the KJB seemed to migrate to psychoanalysis, and the avant garde, as well as to something more underground even. But Auerbach is juxtaposing Jews and Germans with the famous first chapter. These Homeric Greeks are very German.

Peter Paul Rubens (detail from Daniel in the Lions Den, 1615)

And this doesn’t mean its any less profound, but it is interesting in view of the rise of fascism. In fact, the original opening to that first chapter (Odysseus’ Scar) deserves to read…

“Let the reader think of the history which we are ourselves witnessing; anyone who, for example, evaluates the behavior of individual men and groups of men at the time of the rise of National Socialism in German, or the behavior of individual peoples andstates before and during the present (1942) war will feel how difficult it is to represent historical themes in general, and how unfit they are for legend; the historical comprises a great number of contradictory motives in each individual, a hesitation and ambiguous groping on the part of groups; only seldom (as now, as a consequence of the war ) does a more or less plain situation, comparatively simple to describe, arise, and even such a situation is subject to division below the surface, is indeed almost constantly in danger of losing its simplicity.”

This was later changed by editors (in 1946 if I am understanding this issue correctly). The book came out in 42. But like all cultural matters, the spectre of National Socialism was looming and continued to do so…which is partly the point of this blog post.

Lajos Vadja

James I. Porter has an excellent essay on Auerbach:

“So,while Mimesis at once advertises and occludes its historical and situational indices, both in its original printing and in its later English edition, these indices were nevertheless written unmistakably into the very fabric of the opening essay, into its form, structure, and argument. By indexing the present moment in his materials, Auerbach, the displaced German Jew in Istanbul, is historicizing philology. At the same time he is inverting the political polarities of philology, not least by contrasting the two treatments (Homeric, biblical-Jewish) of time, truth, and revelation in the two traditions that he is less comparing than he is critically pitting against each other. And he is undertaking all of this in opposition to the ingrained tendencies of an anti-Semitic classical philology and in the context of efforts in Germany to de-Judaize Christianity. Auerbach is in a sense Judaizing philology; that is, he is constructing a new oppositional Jewish philology.”
James I. Porter (Auerbach, Homer, and the Jews)

Auerbach wrote Mimesis while in exile in Istanbul. He had very little in the way of classical texts to use and wrote most of it from memory. And he wrote it as an indictment of German philology. And in Homer, a figure claimed by the Nazi-complicit German academy, as an inspiration for Aryan culture, Auerbach was contrasting this ideal to the older darker and more conflicted world of the Jewish Bible. And the Bible emerges superior. And perhaps, he was doing even more. The Germanic colored version of classical Greece was anticipating the post WW2 world if conformist banality and spread sheet culture. To a world of privatized emotions and eventually of mass surveillance and tracking that has led to the evaporating self. And to the weakened if not anemic Ego. Homeric psychology is superficial, vaguely narcissistic, and bourgeois. The Old Testament is visionary, mystical, devout and self examining.

Eric Auerbach (center with bow tie) in Istanbul, Turkey, 1957. Visiting former friends that had assisted him in exile.

The legacy of National Socialism lives on in myriad hidden forms. And one is in the psychology that Auerbach identified. For Auerbach’s Homer (and its not that he isnt right about Homer, Nazism aside) is the provincial burgher, the self important small town minister and the functionary or clerk to the great Reich (or Reset, or Green new Deal, or Pax Americana ). And this is the voice of hysterical virtue signalling *Karens*, it is the voice of pink pussy hats and the government ministers of small nations drunk with their new limited power, their new global profile.

“IWA depends on deactivating the capacity to think for oneself…{ } IWA also entails moral accommodation: the victim blames herself for being abused or abandoned. { } A decade later, Fairbairn gave similar observations a different explanation and a new name, “the moral defence” (1943): the child takes the parent’s badness on to herself so she can feel she has good parents—more vital to her sense of security than feeling herself as good, according to Fairbairn. { } The tendency to IWA, in its various dimensions, often persists through life, though over time what began as an automatic organismic reaction takes on a purposeful, defensive dimension(Howell, 2014). A persisting IWA tendency is widespread, observable clinically in many patients who have not been victims of gross trauma (Frankel, 2002); in social phenomena like the Stockholm syndrome (de Fabrique et al., 2007), where hostages develop positive feelings toward their captors; and in experiments like Milgram’s (1963) simulated-electricshock studies of obedience, and, especially, in Zimbardo’s (Haney et al., 1973) Stanford Prison experiment, where normal subjects, randomly assigned to be guards or inmates in a mock prison, often quickly and completely identified with these roles, sometimes even when this offended their character.”
Jay Frankel (Ibid)

Carla Acardi

IWA (Identification with the Aggressor) is one of the mechanism or structural inheritances of 20th century fascism. It is a dynamic upon which authoritarian politics is dependent. We live in the shadow of super-egos developed via authoritarian governance and the ascension of superficial social relations, in fact superficial culture overall. Siegfried Krakauer was among the first to suggest technology hid the potential for resurgent irrational myth. In a sense this is partly what the Nazis were doing. The question is what were the forces or conditions that created or drove this ascension of the superficial. And with it, with this superficial came insincerity and juvenile irony, sentimentality and bathos, and rank hypocrisy.

And in turn the various dynamics of antisemitism today take many substitute forms. Structural antisemitism finds the role formerly (and still) played by the Jew today played by Arabs and Muslims, by Russians or sometimes Chinese (though often this means North Korean).

“…due to Adorno’s influence, authoritarianism and antisemitism are also always identified in their broader social context, as an expression of problems constitutive for modern society as a whole—not just as matters of individual pathologies or problems of specific social milieus and ideologies. “
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

Carol Rama

The scapegoating dynamic that targeted Jews, is also tied directly to bourgeois anxiety and narcissism. And to positivity, false optimism, and smiley faces. Antisemitism is reflected back at us in the smiley face. And this does not seem at all an exaggeration. Just as the Germanized Homer of Auerbach helped shape the anodyne grammar of the World Bank, or mortuary brochures, or real estate ads. The emptying out of meaning led to a near total coding of language today. And to insincerity (my heart goes out to …). Today’s coded propaganda (‘wear the friggin’ mask’) is one built for memes and gifs. And on a passive/aggressive ambivalence. And when sarcasm and snark have come to drown out sincerity, it is likely time to reassess the foundational impulses for art and culture.

“Antisemitism, as Löwenthal similarly argued, is rooted in economic powerlessness and social isolation. Fantastic images of subversive Jewish conspirators satisfy the antisemites craving for an explanation of [his] suffering; it is precisely this lack of real power that provokes anti-Jewish feelings.”
Jonathan Catlin (The Frankfurt School on Antisemitism, Authoritarianism, and Right-wing Radicalism)

Social isolation and economic powerlessness, and Covid restrictions today, and one can begin to understand the groundswell of belief that the moon landings were faked. Such beliefs deflect from other more substantive deceptions. The moon landing hoax exactly provides a kitsch explanation for individual suffering and this generalized dissociative disorder that is now being normalized (or even applauded, much as autism has come to be a mark of specialness, or transgender subject positions, etc. )

Jon Max, photography.

There is a tone of voice that accompanies beliefs in what cannot really be determined one way or another. It is a voice that seems often to be talking to itself. Evidence is not evidence. And the argument then fuels the arguments for censorship — it is another form of provincialism, really. The populace that responded to Hitler’s social fantasies craved a relief from the weight of coercive social demands. Today the Covid narrative has gone on for over a year. (remember when it was three weeks and we would flatten the curve?)

“The theorists instead argued in several studies in the 1930s and 1940s that authoritarian parenting resulted in failed integration of the superego into the ego, leaving a weak ego in authoritarian subjects for whom conformity has replaced consciousness { } The resulting subjects lack capacities for resistance, experience, critical self-reflection, and autonomy; the authoritarian ego becomes hardened reified and armored, making these individuals subject to bourgeois coldness and indifferent to the suffering of others, especially those deemed ‘deviant’. Such weak subjects are vulnerable to fascist propaganda, as they are reduced to thinking in a ‘ticket mentality’ and rigid stereotypes.”
Jonathan Catlin (Ibid)

Otto Dix (detail)

As Adorno noted, the promise of power and strength to a populace without either is very enticing. Trump appealed, in the beginning anyway, as a strongman figure, but with Biden there is a feeling of rescue and the power of conformity and consensus. Catlin notes ” In post-fascist and democratic societies, an agitator might claim to be ‘a friend of the Jews’, yet when he refers to ‘dark forces’ undermining society, Adorno writes,‘the audience at once understands that his remarks are directed against Jews.”

The World Economic Forum is today tweeting photos of empty cities with a text describing how improved there, in part because they are so quiet. It is an open call for depopulation. Facts decontextualized with an open appeal to the virtue of the reader. As Rensmann noted, antisemitism deflects criticism of capitalism. All of these rudimentary narratives appeal to the damaged and weakened ego. And they always absolve class inequality. They absolve the proprietor class. Stigmatizing dissent as dangerous (not wearing a mask means you want to kill your grandparents). The idea of an empty city as an improved city is a terrifying marketing campaign.

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  1. George McI says:

    In my disgust with the Left’s complete capitulation before the covid narrative and my meagre findings of Marxist sites that take a sceptical view of this ever so convenient virus, I too have turned to GG Preparata despite his often vitriolic antipathy towards Marx. But I have come to suspect this antipathy is the product of the Western Left academic establishment treating Preparata in a shabby way and, as it were, excommunicating him.

    Also considering the peculiar – and, to me, seemingly inexplicable – lockstep submission of the Left to the covid tale with its branding of all sceptics as Right Wingers, proto Fascists etc., I have come to wonder about intelligence infiltration into the Marxist movements over the decades.

    The upshot of all this is that I have found myself “cast out” as if made an orphan by movements I used to believe in. There are a few sites which have been like anchors in a sea of deception: one is this site, another is anything connected with Cory Morningstar, also Off Guardian. I have also found myself reading up on people I would previously have rejected e.g. Peter Hitchens.

    And the fact that it is those perceived as being on the Right who voice scepticism seems to me to be part of a pincer movement whereby scepticism is associated with the Right whilst being decisively rejected by the Left. The idea being promulgated is that, if you are a Marxist, you are duty bound to accept the covid narrative.

  2. I was thinking about the negative/positive thing recently, in the context of Jerry Mander’s 1991 book _In the Absence of the Sacred_. You and your guests mentioned it in the last couple podcasts. I hadn’t read it since about 1995, and coincidentally that was when I (personally) started to feel a kind of weird coercion towards “positivity” as it relates to a completely unquestioning trust in technology. I know most would put this earlier, but given my age and general lack of education at the time—that’s when it hit me. Not that I could even put my finger on it back then. I do remember one moment that seemed to encapsulate a sort of disallowing of all debate/ambiguity that I began to feel. And I’m trying to describe something that is more of one of those shifts one feels that we’re encouraged from birth to disregard.
    I was working in a temp agency (which, in and of itself, was an education in the cult of positive thinking, and directly opposed to my other shit jobs which had been in restaurants). I was dragging around my copy of _In the Absence_, reading it when I had down time from answering phones. One of my co-workers saw me reading it and said something like–”hey, that’s Unabomber stuff.” So, Mander’s book is, as you know, all about introducing a skeptical, sort of dialectical stance on tech— “guilty until proven innocent.” I quote: “In a truly democratic society, any new technology would be subject to exhaustive debate.” That is not a particularly radical statement, or, it shouldn’t be, but suddenly I was aligned with Kaczynski for even reading something that dared to critique the holy of holies—technological progress. I mean I think the guy was joking, but I took it as a kind of warning, and hid the book when I was there. Basically, questions = terrorism. It struck me as strange because it was so completely black/white. That’s when I first started to notice this kind of almost hysterical (even in jest) reaction to dissent—almost a fear of other viewpoints.
    This got me thinking too about the almost panicky reaction to “negativity” I see lately in, among all people, artists, So now, “negative” (how you see it in self-help stuff all the time, as in “don’t be around negative people”), and “terrorist”, which has almost lost all meaning, are kind of aligned. And the censorship we’re seeing now has its root in the idea of consensus, as you say, but more like this notion that debate itself is frightening, maybe because it implies a negative, or a dialectic. As if consensus must be coerced or reached without debate. I also remember that 25 years ago, when I was reading Mander’s book and being compared to the Unabomber, and only dimly aware of anything, there were a whole bunch of articles suddenly about “studies” purporting to show how selfish and violent humans are by nature. The mid-90s for me felt like the beginning of some intense mind-coercion. Of course it’s much older than that, just that at that time the tech thing—as in computers—was really being pushed in a way that makes me feel sometimes that I have been being herded continually since about then.

  3. Lorie (I just deleted the @ before your name to forgo the irony only just realized):
    Your comment brings to mind when I had managed to get a full-time placement via a temp agency in 1994. During my tenure at this institution as the mail room boy cum backup receptionist cum assistant to the Admin Director, I bore witness to “Windows 95” as mantra for the future beneath which we would whither without.

    Ours was a small correspondence course company of about thirty employees. The promise of moving our courses online was a no- brainer. We were doing everything by mail: registering students, shipping and receiving their course materials and tests, sorting and shipping the same upon return to contracted instructors who would grade and ship said tests back to us for data entry, and then the eventual certificate creation and mail out.

    I was skeptical at the time, as the net at that point was still fantastical as a global project that we had been reading and hearing about for a few years already, again, in a way I sensed was of a mantra mode. The Windows 95 push seemed so over the top as an obvious monopoly of our future. Upon release, it would have its fair share of problems, none of which, of course, did anything to slow its bottom line. What was that Window guy’s name again?

    Anyway, another project I oversaw was our company president’s solution to cutting our communications’ costs. Our business required the immediacy of long distance via the sales and product development departments, so all of our telephones could be used to dial out to wherever. The solution was software that assigned each employee a code for access. My job was to print weekly and monthly reports which were to include the identification of the employee, the telephone, the number dialed, the call duration, time and date, etc.

    As I was also responsible for preparing briefings at our company meetings on matters that fell under my purview, which up to that point had been reminders about troubleshooting the copy machine, trying to make efficient use of office supplies, and the like. This time I had quite a surprise to announce. I didn’t relish it until…

    I realized that for my own good conscience’s sake, I had to at least make my couple dozen co-workers aware that I was aware of what this amounted to. That is, I had to use irony. So in the next meeting when my time came, which was as usual the final slot, I said to the group, “As the baby of the family I grew up in, with three siblings ahead of me, I’d always wanted a little brother…”

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