Fascist Baby Talk

Andreas Mühe, photography.

“The magnetic power exerted by patently threadbare ideologies is to be explained, beyond psychology, by the objectively determined decay of logical evidence as such. Things have come to a pass where lying sounds like truth, truth like lying. Each statement, each piece of news, each thought has been preformed by the centres of the culture industry.Whatever lacks the familiar trace of such pre-formation lacks credibility,the more so because the institutions of public opinion accompany what they send forth by a thousand factual proofs and all the plausibility that total power can lay hands on. “
Theodor Adorno (Minima Moralia)

“For socially ordained sacrifice is indeed so universal as to be manifest only in society as a whole, and not in the individual. Society has, as it were, assumed the sickness of all individuals, and in it, in the pent-up lunacy of Fascist acts and all their innumerable precursors and mediators, the objective fate buried deep in the individual is integrated with its visible objective counterpart.And how comfortless is the thought that the sickness of the normal does not necessarily imply as its opposite the health of the sick, but that the latter usually only present, in a different way, the same disastrous pattern. “
Theodor Adorno (Minima Moralia)

“Recognition elicits the permanent from the transient.”
Hans-Georg Gadamer (The Relevance of the Beautiful)

“…only the new of which one tires. One never tires of the old.”
Soren Kierkegaard (Repetition)

“The slogan of the First Futurist Manifesto of 1909: ‘War is the world’s only hygiene’ – led directly { } to the shower block of Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
Paul Virillo (Art and Fear)

Today, to read the morning news, from various sources, on various platforms, is to experience a sense of psychic vertigo, almost. It is as the official edicts of the state, of various states (most acutely in the commonwealth countries) are the making literal of what has been, for a half century, metaphorical or symbolic. It is almost like removing the ‘as if’ from any descriptive sentence one can imagine. Australia has made, for example, everyone LITERALLY a prisoner in their own home. The first quote above, from Adorno’s Minima Moralia (and one could almost open that book at random and find relevant passages) was posted on social media by a friend. It is stunningly apt, right now, I think. But it also begs a closer reading of what is meant by the ‘trace’ of pre-formation. One instinctively feels the truth of this statement, but I think it useful to explore further the qualities and characteristics of this pre-formation.

One aspect, or quality, has to do with the voices of mass media. The sound of those who read the news, who pontificate on current affairs, or who literally are news readers and little else. The sound of these voices is replicated in dramatic television and film, too. More, perhaps, in television. The Dick Wolfe franchises, or the Bochco franchises. And on a more prestige level, the Milch franchises. The actors in Bochco’s series always speak with a certain intonation. But its more than that, it is more than simply the sound. It is the attitude or posture behind the sound. Certain actors I have worked with in theatre have done guest spots on Bochco shows, and they appeared out of place. They had been given the parts (I know this) because of family ties, AA friendships, or whatever. These were small guest spots, a one day shoot. They were not ‘Bochco’ actors. They didn’t understand the posture.

Wilhelm Sasnal

And the posture, for lack of a better word just now, is conditional with that of timing. It is that micro anticipation of what is being said. That tiny anticipatory reading is expressed in the body. It is the metaphorical leaning forward. There is a subliminal sense of authority being expressed. And it is no accident most of these shows are cop dramas or court dramas. For this is the stylistic code for institutionally trained speech. It’s not realistic, cops don’t really talk this way, or judges or DA’s. It is the manufacturing of a code for unquestioned confidence and security. It is the voice of security. And this manufactured speech code is duplicated, unconsciously I am sure, by, for example, the White House spokesperson. Jan Psaki could have stepped right out of Law & Order or Hill St. Blues. Or better, out of West Wing. For Aaron Sorkin is the writer for the voice of institutional security. The personal is made institutional in his work. Always. There is also a kind of loss of affect associated with this posture. This is the descendent of the steely eyed loner, the gunfighter who loved his horse more than any woman. In one sense, intimacy is now institutional. One is more intimate with his or her job than with a wife or husband.

There are class markers involved, here, too. The Sorkin style codes are dog whistles for white bourgeois entitlement. But one can hear it in a Samantha Power, for example. One hears it in certain actors, who have an instinctual attitude suited for these franchises. Jeff Daniels has it, naturally. That his work found favor with Noah Baumbach, and James Brooks is not surprising. But then he is a very proficient exemplar of this ‘leaning forward’ speech code. This is a bit generalized, for an actor like Martin Sheen, who has done very good work is not really quite of this type, but he worked well, for probably that reason, as the President in West Wing. Sheen is too method, too animated, his expressions too natural. Now there is a mise en scene involved here, too. The speech quality I am trying to describe is reproduced in editing and even in camera placement. But that would take me too far afield just now. I will only note that the framing for evening news ‘talking heads’, an Anderson Cooper for example (and his speech is both securitized AND patrician) is the exact distance from the camera enshrined as trustworthy. The authoritarian trustworthy. It teeters on unnatural but is read as intimate.

The pre-formation Adorno noted is one that has been decades in the making, in the refining. The news reader, behind a desk, with a certain kind of backdrop and a certain kind of intro score. The formalized informal. The invitation (partial) to be part of the backstage real story is a part of the sense of intimacy that news shows usually exhibit. The breaking of the fourth wall hardly has any meaning today because it is hard to identify where that fourth wall might be, and daily life has taken on qualities of broken fourth walls. Something vaguely hallucinatory in itself.

Emile Hyperion Dubuisson, photography.

Byung Chul-Han makes a point in his book about the disappearance of rituals, that smart phones lack that quality of endurance, of self-sameness (yeah, he is a Heidegger student) needed for rituals. But its a valid point, and it touches on something in capitalism itself that tends toward the erosion of ritual. In theatre, itself a sort of ur-ritual, the quality of enduring truth is always being assaulted today. Smart phones are intrinsically about change. About being refreshed. The cyber age is always rebooted. Everything is updated. Its the assumption of starting over all the time.

The growth of a crafts culture, albeit small still, suggests that people long for stuff, things, that are not ‘used up’. The popularity (again relative) of veg-tan leather, for example, with its very slow and gradual darkening and patina speaks to a desire for a past. The rewritten history of today has, unconsciously, torn people from their ownership of their own past. Literally I think people no longer trust what they remember.

Carlo Maria Mariani

The ephemeral nature of the smart phone, all by itself, irrespective of what its being used for, and what the content of its applications might be, reflects a certain loss of permanence in general today. I wrote before about a quality of incompleteness in popular culture (TV shows cancelled mid season, of after one season with the plot left hanging) and the normalizing of advertising interruptions. One is encouraged not to linger. On anything. The digital age is one of anti-meditation, it is also (obviously) one of distraction. People scan rather than look. The internet is prone to fragmenting everything, but especially reading. I feel it all the time in myself. The idea of popularity feeds into this from a lateral perspective. So entrenched is the idea of popularity that it passes largely unnoticed today. Thirty years ago, or forty maybe, there was a marketing of the idea of popularity — that box office numbers were markers for what was good or bad. These were still pre-internet generations and they still brought with them a sense of quality that was, ideally, independent of consumption metrics. But by the start of the 21st century that marketing was no longer necessary. The public was far less heterogeneous and also had internalized the rhythms and sounds of an ever more uniform mass culture.

“Neoliberalism often makes use of morality for its own ends.Moral values are consumed as marks of distinction. They are credited to the ego-account, appreciating the value of self. They increase our narcissistic self-respect.Through values we relate not to community but to our own egos.”
Byung Chul-Han (The Disappearance of Rituals)

The entire Covid narrative is flush with consumable morality. Now Byung Chul-Han writes about the loss of focused attention. And he’s right. He confuses how people take in narrative, however.

Gottfried Jäger, photography.

“Symbolic perception is gradually being replaced by a serial perception that is incapable of producing the experience of duration. Serial perception, the constant registering of the new, does not linger. Rather, it rushes from one piece of information to the next, from one experience to the next, from one sensation to the next, without ever coming to closure.”
Bynung Chul-Han (Ibid)

But in the next sentence he suggests binge watching and the popularity of mini series, or as they are now called, ‘limited series’, are examples of serial perception. And that’s not quite right. The expanded narratives of the limited series is actually a relief from the usual weekly installment of episodes over the course of a ‘season’. THAT is serial perception, the episodic becomes a kind of form, then. The appeal of binge watching is that is allows for uninterrupted viewing. Uninterrupted by advertising, even. And the episodic form recedes. The expanded narratives feel almost like a salve, in fact. A mental balm. There are limits of course, and there are few actual narratives on offer, but there are some. (BBCs The Terror was one, a markedly unusual narrative, one in which the tensions were never artificial. Note also the terrific cast, especially Adam Nagaitis and Jared Harris).

But we are tweezing apart aspects of mass entertainment here. But it is worth noting a performance like that of Adam Nagaitis, who was trained both at RADA and at Stella Adler’s conservatory, as unusual. For this sound I am describing as the speech sound of security — or the speech act, predominates. And here one could probably break down what I suspect are the compression of sounds in certain actors speech. (for example the word six has four sounds, but most would perhaps quickly answer that it has three sounds. But its really four…SICK…with an ‘sss’ at the end). There is a marked tendency for Hollywood cop franchises to use actors (this is likely entirely unconscious and instinctive on the part of casting directors) who compress the sounds, especially at the start of a word or sentence. I can’t really offer evidence of this, but watch a Dick Wolfe show like, say, Chicago P.D. or one of the other Chicago trio, like Chicago Med, and see if you don’t notice this anticipatory compression at the start of a character’s dialogue. Ok, I digress a bit. The issue is more with the entirety of influence that mass culture has had on, well, everything. And during the current crisis of the manufactured pandemic, we see the securitizing qualities of entertainment and its assault on art and culture.

Jacenty Dedek, photography.

“…everything which causes repetition to vary seems to us to cover or hide it at the same time. Here again, we do not reach a concept of repetition. By contrast, might we not form such a concept once we realize that variation is not added to repetition in order to hide it, but is rather its condition or constitutive element, the inferiority of repetition par excellence?”
Gilles Deleuze (Difference and Repetition)

Now Deleuze notes also how disguise and displacement are a part of repetition, and of difference. That quite possibly there is no one thing that is repeated. As Godard once said, in conversation (and which I quote rather often)…”It’s all the same, just a little bit different”. But this has important implications. For what this pandemic has shown is that the contemporary world exists in a matrix of concentric circles of reality. The constant production of propaganda is, or rather, has become deceptive. There is propaganda meant to be read AS propaganda. And there are actually several kinds of this overt propaganda. One is the false flag propaganda, the creation of videos and memes and tweets that pretend to criticize, that purport to strip the veil away from the manufactured story of the state (and NGOs and influencers et al) to reveal the truth. But they are actually, often, anti communist, anti semitic, and covertly pro capitalist. There is another variety of overt propaganda that is obviously inept. It is clearly misstating or misquoting. It is ammunition for the true believers. Now its an open question who exactly produces this stuff. But then there is the sincere propaganda of expert authority. The appeal to science. But only to an approved voice of science. Dissident science is to be aggressively attacked and shamed, to be ridiculed more harshly than any lay opinion.

The experience for the public is disruptive because these things can be experienced as if looking through a telephoto lens. One can focus where one likes. One can change focus. One can do this constantly.

Marco Bigliazzi

“There are certainly many dangers in invoking pure differences which have become independent of the negative and liberated from the identical. The greatest danger is that of lapsing into the representations of a beautiful soul: there are only reconcilable and federative differences, far removed from bloody struggles. The beautiful soul says: we are different, but not opposed. The notion of a problem, which we see linked to that of difference, also seems to nurture the sentiments of the beautiful soul: only problems and questions matter…Nevertheless, we believe that when these problems attain their proper degree of positivity, and when difference becomes the object of a corresponding affirmation, they release a power of aggression and selection which destroys the beautiful soul by depriving it of its very identity and breaking its good will. The problematic and the differential determine struggles or destructions in relation to which those of the negative are only appearances, and the wishes of the beautiful soul are so many mystifications trapped in appearances. The simulacrum is not just a copy, but that which overturns all copies by also overturning the models: every thought becomes an aggression.”
Gilles Deleuze (Ibid)

So, while we have discussed the collective madness around us, on the podcasts, and while others have written extensively about the virtue signalling, and class demarcations in acceptance or rejection of things such as vaccine passports, there continues to be a feeling of having missed something. And I think this is because of how global this event has become. Allow me another lengthy quote from Deleuze…

“A book of philosophy should be in part a very particular species of detective novel, in part a kind of science fiction. By detective novel we mean that concepts, with their zones of presence, should intervene to resolve local situations. They themselves change along with the problems. They have spheres of influence where, as we shall see, they operate in relation to ‘dramas’ and by means of a certain ‘cruelty’. They must have a coherence among themselves, but that coherence must not come from themselves. They must receive their coherence from elsewhere.
This is the secret of empiricism. Empiricism is by no means a reaction against concepts, nor a simple appeal to lived experience.On the contrary, it undertakes the most insane creation of concepts ever seen or heard. Empiricism is a mysticism and a mathematicism of concepts, but precisely one which treats the concept as object of an encounter, as a here-and-now, or rather as an ‘Erewhon’ from which emerge inexhaustibly ever new, differently distributed ‘heres’ and ‘news’.”

Gilles Deleuze (Ibid)

Stephanie Schnieder, photography.

The local and the global. This is the unsettling and uncanny aspect of electronic media. The sense of scale is so deformed, so neurotically experienced today that one becomes the other, and both are the each other, and often simultaneously. The pandemic, the phantom virus (real but still phantom), the unseen catalyst for internal panic is or was something unleashed from either a mysterious Hollywood sci fi lab in China (China !!) or from a mysterious exotic land of cruelty and cunning. Unleashed and there appear an army of experts, a familiar face in Anthony Fauci, never mind his record is dotted with near criminal culpabilities and dishonesty. The marketing appears; ‘Trust the Science’. What science? Which science? What? The voices of authority, Jen Psaki, the Dick Wolfe clone, a pixie authoritarian who feels like a pocket Samantha Power, presides at the podium for White House press conferences. That podium, another bit of set decor that is marinated in decades of legitimacy and power. The podium of power. (Samantha POWER). Klaus Schwab appears on Charlie Rose. As a friend described him, a cross between Blofeld and Strangelove. But less amusing. You could not invent an accent that registers as more of a caricature of a Nazi than that of Schwab. Is that intentional, too? The cartoon Nazi? Is this another migration of anti semitism? One does often feel as if caught in a global game of three card monte. There is a quality of unfamiliarity about this narrative, however. This is the first installment of trans-national NGO authoritarianism. Health fascism.

The ruling class was never going to bring back black leather overcoats and black leather boots. And here again, it is worth remembering that the majority of people on this planet are not buying the story. It is primarily a targeted audience of the white bourgeoisie. The same audience for West Wing or HBO. The ersatz seriousness of a cartoon like Westworld was part of this decades long conditioning. This is both planned: Schwab and Prince Charles and Gates and Vanguard and Blackrock, and Avaaz and the WEF and WHO and WWF and the U.S. government, and it is an auto pilot quality of advanced capitalism. Now advanced capitalism, if we want to look at it in a certain light, is planned, too. The removal of working class voices was intentional. The consolidation of media in a few hands, the mental defoliation of the American public, the continuation of colonial policies under cover of austerity and the shock doctrine. It is all the blighted blueprint of the very wealthiest people and corporations in the world. And it has been the compliance of what amount to vassal states, now. The NATO countries, the EU at large, and pretty much any nation with an at all significant GNP. The cultural appropriation of working class style and imagination has run alongside this, too.

“There must be hierarchies, or the elimination of hierarchies.”
George Jackson (Blood in My Eye)

Vladimir Birgus, photography.

“In the digital age, we are far more likely to hear about the cost of privacy, not its virtues or even its value. { } Although it is not logically necessary, the transition from humanist discourse to a rational choice framework is entirely consonant with the shift in conceptions of privacy. Whereas privacy was previously framed in humanistic terms, it is now far more likely to be thought of as a type of property, something that can be bought or sold in a market. Privacy has become a form of private property.”
Bernard E. Harcourt (Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age)

Harcourt notes that InfoUSA, a giant among data brokers has lists of people with dementia, and how to exploit them, has records on those with cancer, data on elderly gamblers, and it sells this info to corporations to profit off these people. This is the new world of business in a sense. The end of privacy as conventionally understood. Well, not new exactly, its been around for decades, Axicom is another giant.

“Alongside these brokered data, there is a whole new and emerging collection of consumer rankings and scoring—what the World Privacy Forum calls “consumer scores.” A myriad of public and private entities are now engaged in massive ranking and scoring of us all, trying to place numbers on each of us to “describe or predict [our] characteristics, habits, or predilections.” Following in the footsteps of the “credit scores” that were developed in the 1950s, we are seeing today the proliferation and extension of this scoring logic to all facets of life. There are today consumer scores including “the medication adherence score, the health risk score, the consumer profitability score, the job security score, collection and recovery scores, frailty scores, energy people meter scores, modeled credit scores, youth delinquency score, fraud scores, casino gaming propensity score, and brand name medicine propensity scores,” among others.”
Bernard E. Harcourt (Ibid)

Katharina Sieverding, mixed media.

This is all well known info. But if anyone has any doubts about the targeted public in health matters, this should put that discussion to rest. The point here is that even if there are massive flaws in how such material is defined, in the epistemological calculus involved, the fact is that electronic media and internet platforms are in service to very powerful entities and people. Of course this virus is about money. That is the main thing it is about, its bottom line, so to speak. And there is another side here…

“Research suggests that online visibility and the exposure and transparency of social media may have a damping effect on our willingness to voice our opinions and express ourselves, particularly when we think that we are in the minority feeding into a “spiral of silence.”
Bernard E. Harcourt (Ibid)

So we have a society in which even the most skeptical have a hard time finding ways to express this skepticism. For there is a profound lynch mob mentality at work. This level of aggression, of vindictive and vengeful attitudes, is a product of all these many streams of influence. The securitization of culture, certainly is a huge part. That shift that began with Dirty Harry was more and more incorporated into an idea, only slightly contradictory, of obedience. The average bourgeois citizen sees him or herself as a good soldier. Knowing how to take orders, respecting authority. Hollywood so glamorized the military and police that the Harry Callahan character today would not be presented as a rebel or outsider. Callahan would answer yessir to his superior, and copy that. Understood. Outstanding. A citizen soldier in the army of virtue.

Thought experiment: Compare head shot of Anderson Cooper on evening news with head shot of Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry.

Ivan Pinkava, photography.

It is an army of duty, and of responsibility. No punishment is too severe. And this relates, too, to the disappearance of ritual. Of magic, even. There are sanctioned, or approved outsiders. These are carefully vetted, and usually appear with or are backed by corporate forces. They are defined by eccentricities or odd habits, they wear funny glasses or look peculiar, and this has come to be how Hollywood character is defined as well. Oddities of behavior, chewing gun, wearing odd hats, or having strange compulsions or conditions. If you are ADHD, that is then your character. Full stop. The ‘family of man’ cliche looms behind all of it. These superficial markers cover over the lack of actual character. The superficiality of Hollywood writing is breathtaking.

This injection of false heterogeneity is a good example of the telescoping of registers I mentioned above. And it is Adorno’s dialectics (which is likely the reason for the endless negative critiques he gets these days) that provides a tool, or tools, for navigating the various floors of manufactured unreality.

“That in drama not the text but the performance is taken to be what matters, just as in music not the score but the living sound is so regarded, testifies to the precariousness of the thing‐character in art, which does not, however, thereby release the artwork from its participation in the world of things. For scores are not only almost always better than the performances, they are more than simply instructions for them: they are indeed the thing itself.”
Theodor Adorno (Aesthetic Theory)

Miroslav Hak, photography.

Gerald Bruns, in a short piece on Adorno and dialectics writes…

“The point here is that the modernist artwork, in contrast to tradition, does not form a hermeneutical circle, a subordination of parts to a whole; this is the source of its enigmaticalness or Rätselcharakter, that is, its “fracturedness [gebrochensein]”, its repudiation of the concept of meaning , and its refusal of closure: “Art that makes the highest claim,” Adorno says, “compels itself beyond form as totality and into the fragmentary. The plight of form is most emphatically manifest in the difficulty of bringing temporal art forms to a conclusion; in music composers often speak of the problem of a finale, and in literature the problem of a denouement, which came to a head in Brecht. Once having shaken itself free of convention, no artwork was able to end convincingly.”
Gerald Bruns (On the Conundrum of Form and Material in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism, vol.66)

Nicole Berenz, in her piece on Adorno and film, notes…“A crucial point in his analyses relates to the way the culture industry makes use of legendary criminals and asocial personalities in order to eradicate tendencies to revolt and to empty the tragic of all meaning.”
Nicole Berenz (Cinema in Spite of Itself, but Cinema all the Same)

Ali Omar Ermes

This is, in one sense, the crux of this issue of aesthetics and ideology that is performed by the Pandemic cast. And it is the core of a discussion of sanctioned outsiders, today, too. The role of official eccentric, not necessarily even one connected to the arts, is that such constructions serve as stand-ins for actual radical thinkers and artists, but then by their very emptiness reclaim the terrain that allows for the truth of form (potentially, if artists were only to recognize it and perhaps some do). The faces of the pandemic, from Fauci to the various U.S. politicians, to Justin Trudeau and various vaccine exponents– even to Bill Gates, merge kitsch and authoritarianism, or perhaps more, camp and authoritarianism. Kary Mullis, Noble Prize Winner and the inventor of the PCR test did an interview before his untimely death in which he called Fauci a moron. And, added that the PCR test had no value as a diagnostic tool. That interview had no traction. Fauci continued to be fawned upon, and became ubiquitous as the face of the pandemic. For the inauthentic Dr. Fauci reads as more real to the Spectacle. The spectacle cannot abide anything but the artificial. Fauci is not exactly ‘real’, he is like that podium that Psaki stands behind. He is set decor. He is the artificially real, the screen real. Mullis had no telegenic resonance. He radiated intelligence and disdain. And impatience. And frustration. There is no emoji for intelligence and frustration. There is one for the ‘Fauci ouchi’.

“The closed artwork is bourgeois, the mechanical artwork belongs to fascism, and the fragmentary work—in its complete negativity—belongs to utopia.”
Theodor Adorno (Philosophy of New Music)

One could add, today, the technological artwork is fascist. Computer generated image is fascist. And the endless repetitions of closed melodrama, produced in a kind of short hand, are now the currency most circulated by the educated bourgeoisie. Melodrama, the form, substitutes for actual narrative. Narrative is always open ended. Plots are closed.

Ogawa Kazumasa, photomechanical print

This leads back to the idea of the disappeared ritual. One could as well say the disappeared interior life. The colonized subjectivity. It is additionally the rabid fear of the unconscious. Which is also to say the fear of emotion. And it is also the undialectical ideas about society, about the definition of society, or public, that have gained a seemingly permanent grip on the minds of people.

“The 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of psychiatric illness has concluded that trauma is now so common that it can no longer be defined as an event “outside the range of normal human experience.”7 And whereas anxiety was not long ago the focus of distress, categories of panic attacks have moved to the forefront. Social phobia—the incapacitating fear of humiliation or embarrassment in social events, often combined with agoraphobia and panic anxiety—has become the single most frequent psychiatric problem. Some proportion of people with social phobia are—as a proportion of the readers of this essay are aware— housebound; others are unable to stand in a line or go to a store. What- ever reasons people give for not appearing at the polls, voting itself is clearly beyond the power of many. This is evidence that the public world has become so antipathetic to those who in some sense constitute it that it can no longer be approached, but this fact of social phobia is also evidence that, for many, the self is prohibited from rudimentary development so that even common events threaten regression and the eruption of needs and fears associated with intense vulnerability and shame.”
Robert Hullot-Kentor (Things Beyond Remembrance)

This essay of Hullot-Kentor (in his book, Things Beyond Remembrance) is about the idea of reclaiming a public sphere, or public world.

Sylvia Gertsch

“Much contemporary critical theory seeks to escape the threat of a looming nonintegration by affirming disintegration in stylized, finicky, implausible evocations of ruins, melancholy, and fragmentation. “Difference,” apart from its philosophical reasoning—as a popular ideal that capitalizes on the rejection of all universals as illusory— – permits ignoring the idea of the whole and suppresses dynamic, complex concepts of relationship. If it has not been noticed, the concepts of antagonism, conflict, anxiety, contrast, alienation, and opposition have disappeared from much critical discussion. The slack ideal of cultural multiplicity hovers gingerly above the guilt context of the whole, preferring the neutralization of thought to any insight into that guilt context, not least because insight implies a need for change that is sensed as beyond anyone’s power. The aesthetics of this cultural moment is a postmodernism that shuns the forming of a critical microcosm by preference for a form of montage that never gets beyond juxtaposition. “
Robert Hullot-Kentor (Ibid)

The idea of reclaiming a genuine public is an illusion, really, a rationalization of sorts for a spreading sense of impotence. The non-integration is a bit like Horkheimer’s ideas in Eclipse of Reason. There are ties, too, with the occult/racism and antisemitism that found traction via Rudolph Steiner et al. (And honestly Waldorf Schools in the US are perfectly good alternatives to U.S. public education). But that strange backdrop of occult like mysticism, of anthroposophy and theosophy. This is worth an entire posting, probably. There is an interesting doctoral paper by Peter Staudenmair…

“…anthroposophy embodied a contradictory set of racial and ethnic doctrines which held the potential to develop in different directions under particular political, social, and cultural conditions. In spite of anthroposophists’ insistence that their worldview was ‘unpolitical,’ my argument will identify an implicit politics of race running throughout their public and private statements, a body of assumptions about the cosmic significance of racial and ethnic attributes that shaped their responses to fascism. { } What emerged were racial and ethnic stances that were frequently ambiguous and multivalent but that in several cases found a comfortable home in fascist contexts precisely because of their spiritual orientation, one that did not deign to concern itself directly with the distasteful realm of politics. The resulting history reveals the limits of a spiritual renewal approach to individual and social change, and of an unpolitical conception of new ways of life, even with the loftiest of aspirations. For some anthroposophists, such discourses of enlightenment and emancipation became bound up with authoritarian aims.”
Peter Staudenmaier (Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945)

Lothar Wolleh, photography.

There are parallels with the transhumanist and bio-tech enthusiasts today. The difference is the transference of spiritual renewal to technological renewal. And renewal is not a word transhumanists would probably use. One could also argue along the lines of computer coding, the computational as substitute for reason, and probabilities as technical solutions. And this is what Horkheimer dreaded in Russell and Whitehead and positivism altogether.

That theosophy, and its all its many branches that grew out of early 20th century Europe (Germany and Switzerland primarily) travelled forward to help destabilize the 60s radical movements for social change. Social activism became spiritual individualism. One is then seeing the fascist echoes in most new age undertakings — from whole foods to yoga classes. It has moved forward further still to the ‘science’ of transhumanism and extreme wealth that seems to reside alongside it.

“…that fascism itself can be seen as a political variant of modernism. This peculiar genus of revolutionary project for the transformation of society, it will be argued, could only emerge in the first decades of the twentieth century in a society permeated with modernist metanarratives of cultural renewal which shaped a legion of activities, initiatives, and movements ‘on the ground’. In its varied permutations fascism took it upon itself not just to change the state system, but to purge civilization of decadence, and foster the emergence of a new breed of human beings which it defined in terms not of universal categories but essentially mythic national and racial ones. Its activists set about their task in the iconoclastic spirit of ‘creative destruction’ legitimized not by divine will, reason, the laws of nature, or by socio-economic theory,but by the belief that history itself was at a turning point and could be launched on a new course through human intervention that would redeem the nation and rescue the West from imminent collapse.”
Roger Griffen (Modernism and Fascism)

Mircea Suciu

Griffin quotes Frank Kermode a bit later from a book I have quoted many times here, referring to a poem of Yeats:

“Such lines have a bearing on an important distinction drawn by Frank Kermode in ‘The Sense of an Ending’.He stresses the difference between the poetic fictions used by artists to illuminate or articulate elusive aspects of contemporary reality, and politicized myths, which become incorporated into the ideological rationale for attempts to engineer radical transformations of that reality.”
Roger Griffin (Ibid)

It should not be too hard to see the echoes of the ‘spiritual science(s)’ of the early 20th century today in Klaus Schwab and his DAVOS attendees. In Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. As secular versions of this counterfeit spirituality, adherents of a toxic cult science and of scientific racism. Eugenics is certainly a part of this fabric of exclusionary white supremacism. Kermode saw in Yeats, interestingly, a close association or correlation of totalizing form and subliminal authoritarian sensibilities. It should be noted Yeats was aware of this himself. And his most famous poems are about this battle. But as Griffin notes; apocalyptic fictions in literature, and I can think of Pynchon or DeLillo off the top of my head today, and their themes of a need to correct the malaise and decadence, the wrong turns and corruption of modern society, are mirrored in certain political visions for correction and cleansing. It is the opening monologue in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (taken largely from the writings of Arthur Bremer) and it is, too, in the literal cleansing underway in the Pandemic and vaccine mandates. It is the securitized speech and authoritarian ethos of Dick Wolfe’s various franchises, and it is the language of Aaron Sorkin and it increasingly is delivered in the baby -talk of political leaders or the infantilization of government policy and language.

James Baldwin saw sentimentality as the mask of cruelty. And I would suggest an intimate relationship between the fascistic baby-talk of today and with a sentimentalizing of cruelty itself. Again so much is becoming literal that was metaphorical before this last two years.

Goetheanum, designed by Rudolph Steiner, Switzerland 1919.

The former Secretary of Education, under Obama, Arne Duncan, compared those refusing the Covid vaccine to the Taliban. The inherent, often latent, contempt the white bourgeoisie feels for the working class, seen as the class beneath them, is now openly expressed, but in a language fit for pre school, and in visuals borrowed from late Disney aesthetics. And the ruling class, unable to prevent their regression to cartoon-like self parody, sneer and laugh, have unmasked dinner parties where only the waiters wear masks. These people shop at exclusive health-food grocery stores (or their maids do) and they do Yoga or spinning class, and wear, often natural fiber clothing. They will walk you to the internment camp wearing Vegan shoes and signing more laws to restrict tobacco use and limit what food stamps can buy. They are only following the consensus. One manufactured by the ruling class. Soldiers of virtue. The Great Reset is only Nazi dreams (I was thinking of Hitler’s plans for Norway while writing this. A winter ski resort, essentially, for party members only) dressed in new cultic bio tech terminology. Kitsch and the sentimental are both a form of violence.

“…the sense of a new beginning cultivated by fascism itself in both its ‘movement’ and ‘regime’ aspect. In cinematic terms images from the Hollywood blockbuster evoking the Romantic, illusory ‘new beginning’ felt so passionately by the star-crossed pair on the prow of the Titanic could now dissolve into fascist ones. The sequence could start with the closing scene in Giovacchnio Forzano’s Camicia Nera [Black Shirt] (1933) which shows Mussolini inaugurating the reclamation (‘bonifi ca’) of the Pontine Marshes where a new city will soon arise, a symbol of the modernizing and modernist plans for the ‘bonifi ca’ of the whole of Italy. This could fade to the moment in Alessandro Blasetti’s Vecchia Guardia [The Old Guard] (1935) where Blackshirts set off for the March on Rome, the first steps to a New Italy, which in turn could merge into the closing moments of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’ when serried ranks of banner-carrying Hitler Youth march heroically into the new Germany in which the ultimate sacrifice of one of their comrades in the war against Bolshevism will be redeemed. The closing shot could be the opening frames of ‘Triumph of the Will’ with their famous images of Hitler descending from the clouds like a latter-day sky-God to land at Nuremberg where he will preside over the 1934 Party Congress.”
Roger Griffin (Ibid)

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  1. I had a girlfriend who was a phd looking for a tenure track position. She watched CSI NY religiously, always stating it was her mindless entertainment. Looking back it’s clear she was in part studying this crap for how to present herself to institutions.

  2. Patrick L. says:

    Watching the horrible Justin Trudeau, I was struck again by how obvious it is that he’s acting, and what an abysmally bad actor he is. Everything about him — his intonation, his “artful” pauses, his would-be tough-guy emphases, his body-language, the things he does with his face — screams “I am lying to you.”. It just reeks of unreality. He is as obviously insincere, as laughably phoney, as Dubya was.

    Sometime in the 80s Oliver Sachs described a roomful of profoundly deaf people watching Ronald Reagan address the nation on TV. They couldn’t stop laughing. It was so obvious to them that he was lying.

    The widespread inability to see through these clowns’ performances goes hand-in-hand
    with the equally widespread loss of literacy. I don’t mean basic ABC (the “educated” are the most clueless); I mean the capacity to read critically, to understand nuance, to grasp what is being said and what is not being said. To tell the fake from the real. To recognise liars and laugh at them. Healthy children can manage these tasks, often effortlessly. Adults have to be trained out of it.

    The system’s demand for obedient graduates in STEM subjects has been accompanied by a terrible loss of, yep, aesthetic resistance. Masking and antisocial distancing are only going to make this worse. Autism unbound.

  3. John Steppling says:

    yeah, patrick. Funny you should note reagan. I mentioned him in a similar way in the podcast last night https://soundcloud.com/aestheticresistance/podcast-49

  4. Patrick L. says:

    Naive people think they admire great acting because those actors are skilled in pretending. No, their work is memorable because they’re brave enough to be truthful.

    I keep remembering Cagney’s reply when he was asked if he had any tips for actors: “Find your spot, look the other fella in the eye, and tell the truth.”

    White Heat (1949), the scene in the prison refectory when he gets the news about his mother:


  5. Thanks for the podcasts, it’s particularly good to hear people coming together from countries so distant to each other. I’m wondering how much longer this will be possible, or rather: allowed. They’re working hard to suppress meetings in the real world, so it can’t be long before they lock down the internet too. In fact they’ve already started; censorship on the so-called “social” media is rampant and getting worse fast. (Amazon, Facespook, the BBC & porn must by now account for close to half of all permitted web traffic.)

    A “terrorist attack” on around September 11 would come in very handy as a pretext for further repression. I’d bet money it will be blamed on a “far right” “covid-denier”. If and when this happens, try doubting any aspect of the Official Yarn online.

    Corey Morningstar said she felt despair. The thing is, the ruling class gangsters we’re up against care nothing for reason or evidence or the quality or cogency of an argument. The most forceful and eloquent essays, the most conscientiously-gathered proofs, just make them smirk. They know they have the mass media and the cops on their side, and they know that’s all they need.

    They are coming for our kids now, in a big way. To stop this, we’re going to have to start taking effective action offline. The people of France and Italy are leading the way. We’re talking about bodies versus bodies now — strikes and blockades and mass demonstrations, and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

    The word “sabotage” comes from the French, as does “guillotine”.

  6. I’m having surgery soon and will be hospitalized. I found it interesting that neither my primary physician nor the specialist mentioned vaccination. I must pass a Covid test, but nothing else was broached.

  7. John Steppling says:

    good luck bruce.

  8. John Steppling says:

    there are growing protests…..everywhere it seems. People are wising up, perhaps.

  9. some people are wising up, but many of the dipshit left are doubling down. i was listening to an interview with mark crispin miller and he rattled off a list of former allies, all now firmly in the ‘we gotta beat this thing’ camp of vaccine evangelists. being a recovering lib/lefty it is disheartening, but at least now we all know where we stand. it may seem unfair given this or that person’s professional history, but this has become a litmus test. i reserve the right to change my mind, but for the moment i have no use for any journalist or intellectual peddling the vaccine narrative.

  10. Patrick L. September 6, says: [good] actors […..] their work is memorable because they’re brave enough to be truthful…………

    There is a recognisable truth in that, and it leads straight to the question : What are the reasons they don’t speak out in the past year or so.

  11. Regino Diaz-Robainas8 says:

    Navigating Without a NORTHERN Star or Strange
    Days- It feels like daily life and
    the out-of-joint official stories that stalk it
    are becoming more and more kafkaesque each
    apocalyptic day. I found the following article
    helpful in mapping its dreadful waters each must
    navigate: https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/09/10/a-deadly-concentration-of-wealth-in-end-times-pre-determined/

  12. Regino Robainas says:

    Military Organization and Failing Voices of Lying Authority

    As an illustrative instantion of this futile and collapsing (see
    Greek and Turkish uprisings over the weekend against vaccination
    impositions), I remember the late 1980’s NRC cannonical regs. regarding
    “Fitness for Duty” trying to observe and control workers’ behavior, policing
    the human equipment that could degrade, as all machinery does with time and
    thermodynamic entropy. Thus, our feelings and thoughts would be sampled
    periodically by a retinue of psychologists and drug (mostly cannabis) use
    would entail immediate termination from the controlled process of
    generating power. So power and fascist narratives became intertwined or
    instrumentalist common sense. The fascist telos is to obliterate souls and

    It makes sense that, as consequence, today most may not notice the
    absurdity of Illinoois rescuing their decaying Nuclear plants with
    hundreds of billions of dollars on the grounds that Nuclear power is
    green, as it reduces coal and natural gas.

  13. William Dumas says:

    I have been resisting vaccination and testing,
    but now that the FDA has ruled, I am required
    by my employer to either be vaccinated or be
    tested regularly for COVID. I fear the vaccination,
    I don’t understand what is in the genetic cocktail
    being injected into my cells, and I’m deathly afraid
    of needles. This is fascism pure and simple, but
    unlike when the orange man was in charge, none
    dare call it what it is.

  14. John Steppling says:

Speak Your Mind


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