The Happiest Place on Earth

Jean Dunand (Lacquered Panel opal insets) 1926.

“It’s the century of the Jew, the union cutthroat, the fag, and the whore!”
Walt Disney (quoted in Leonard Mosley’s Disney’s World)

“…machinery in itself shortens the hours of labor, but when employed by capital it lengthens them; in itself it lightens labor, but when employed by capital it heightens its intensity; in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of nature but in the hands of capital it makes man the slave of those forces; in itself it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital it makes them into paupers.”
Karl Marx (Capital, vol 1)

“White people go around, it seems to me, with a very carefully suppressed terror of Black people—a tremendous uneasiness…{ } They don’t know what the Black face hides. They’re sure it’s hiding something. What it’s hiding is American history.”
James Baldwin (Esquire interview, 1979)

“…the internal politics of the medium { Twitter } is itself a politics of identity, because it compels us to dedicate more and more time to performing an identity.”
Richard Seymour (The Twittering Machine)

The resurgence of fascism, globally, has a number of expressions, and causes. But there feels like a clear connection to the destruction of sub-cultures, of community, and of culture generally.

“Here, you see, a first consequence of this new order is that a principle is lacking, one of the fundamental principles of the juridical order, that is legal certainty. If the State — as jurists have widely noted — instead of giving a stable normative discipline, intervenes thanks to the emergency on a certain phenomenon every 15 days, as it happens, every month, every 15 days, and even declares that there will be no fixed rule, that the legislation will change continuously, it is clear that that phenomenon no longer responds to a principle of legality, because the principle of legality consists precisely in the fact that the State formulates a stable law and that citizens know what this law is. Instead we live in a state of uncertainty of law.”
Giorgia Agamben (speech, Nov 2021, Venice Italy, Students Against the Green Pass)

Gabriel Orozco

Without a sub culture, informal meetings, collective creative projects, and gatherings, people can no longer discuss things. Social media is the anti-sub culture. It is not even a pretend replacement, but an antagonist.

“…the operating force of this transformation — perhaps one should say of this coup d’état because a real coup d’état has taken place.”
Giorgio Agamben (Ibid)

There are voices, like Agamben, or Evo Morales (who calls what is happening a biological war) saying what many of us have voiced, but in less categorical terms. But this has been written about extensively (with comprehensive analysis of the Great Reset and Green New Deal, see Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green). What seems increasingly important however is the psychological condition of western societies, and how the evolution (or devolution) of advanced capitalism has affected culture and material living conditions. Looking back at the early Frankfurt School studies on anti-semitism and the authoritarian personality, it is interesting to see certain cliches in the thinking of both workers and management. Some of the questions on the well known survey (collated into The Authoritarian Personality by Adorno and others) hint at some of this. Asked do you agree or disagree to statements such as “today people talk too much and work too little”, or “the true American way of life is disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve it”, revealed the outlines of the sado-masochistic tendency in the followers of authoritarian leaders. It is not hard to rephrase these questions today and arrive at similar conclusions. That is one thing. The second issue is, of course, the significant impact of the internet.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger

The self loathing is projected outward onto the most vulnerable.

“Aggression and rage toward authority must be denied and tends to be transformed in self-hatred as well as displaced onto others: perceived weak, hostile, or “unworthy” members of society.”
Lars Rensman (The Politics of Unreason)

I will return to the psychic architecture of the anal-sadistic and sado-masochistic personality .. but before that it is worth looking at how the idea of brand has crept into the collective subjectivity of the West.

“Photographs of SS uniforms are the units of a particularly powerful and widespread sexual fantasy. Why the SS? Because the SS was the ideal incarnation of fascism’s overt assertion of the righteousness of violence, the right to have total power over others and to treat them as absolutely inferior. It was in the SS that this assertion seemed most complete, because they acted it out in a singularly brutal and efficient manner; and because they dramatized it by linking themselves to certain aesthetic standards. The SS was designed as an elite military community that would be not only supremely violent but also supremely beautiful. . . .”
Susan Sontag (Fascinating Fascism)

What Sontag misses in a not uninteresting monograph is the revulsion that accompanies the eroticized violence of National Socialism. For revulsion is actually foregrounded, to a degree.

Enoc Perez (Hotel Fontainbleau, Miami)

“As the design critic Steven Heller argues in his book Iron Fists: Branding the Twentieth-Century Totalitarian State, Hitler, like it or not, had an intuitive grasp of the semiotics of power, evidenced not only in his appropriation of the swastika and rebranding of the ragtag National Socialist movement, but in his racist stereotyping (Heller calls it “branding demonization”) of the Ger- man Jews and, ultimately, in the forced tattooing that marked death- camp inmates for slaughter—branding in the most horrifically literal sense.”
Mark Dery (I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts)

This is relevant, I think, when one looks at the marketing of the pandemic. The most obvious first example is the mask. (and already there is a study indicating significant development problems for children since masks were introduced in U.S. and U.K. schools). But, like death camp tattoos, the absorbing of the literal body (Agamben notes the vaccine is the new sacrament) is both eroticized, but not without a quality of revulsion. In the case of the pandemic, with the entire propaganda of institutional medicine as a backdrop, the revulsion is mitigated to some degree. One is meant to feel some slight revulsion at medical procedures, that is actually a part of their seduction, their appeal to power.

“Hitler’s demonic talent for graphic branding reminds us of Walt Disney, the mediocre cartoonist and self-described benign dictator of the Happiest Place on Earth, whose iconic mouse ears and branded signature (not his own; the company designed it, and he learned to forge it) are as instantly recognizable as the swastika (and, in some quarters, nearly as feared). We think of the Great Dictator’s childish delight in Disney cartoons and his unsettling habit of whistling “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?” (Hitler nicknamed himself “Wolf”) as he lurched through the corridors of the ‘Führerbunker’, a cadaverous apparition sustained by drugs, while the Russian tanks rolled overhead.”
Mark Dery (Ibid)

Gustave Dore

A number of artists have noted the convergence of Hitler and Disney in cultural terms (Gottfried Helnwein for one). And the fact that Disney attended American Nazi Party rallies, and visited Mussolini is a part of this, too. Dery’s chapter on fascist branding is something of a minor masterpiece and I include just one more quote because its funny, but also because it touches on the British royal family– those so ardently driving the de-population agenda of the new climate circus. On the topic of Prince Harry’s (now Mr. Meghan Markle) boorish nazi costume for a party…

“While we at the Department of Hitler Studies can understand the moral recoil from Prince Harry’s yobbish insensitivity, we can’t fathom the shock expressed in some quarters. Isn’t the little Anus Horribilis’s act of monumental insensitivity part and parcel of the royals’ highborn disdain for the simple folk? What’s the point of being in line for the throne if you’re bound by the moral code that constrains the lesser ethers? Doesn’t the appalling theme of the party His Royal Highness was attending—“Colonials and Natives,” which might’ve seemed a waggish choice if you were sipping gin rickeys after shooting an elephant in Victorian India—speak volumes about the colonial consciousness of all of the realm’s bluebloods? As the editors of the London News Review wrote in their tongue-in-cheek “Defense of the Idiot Prince,”‘Colonials and Natives’? What the fuck are these people on? What century are they living in? Colonials and Natives? It beggars belief. Why not ‘Imperialists and Nig Nogs’?” Then, too, it’s common knowledge that a genteel anti-Semitism has long been part of the aristocratic gene code in England. { } Jessica (“Decca”) Mitford, an English blueblood, once referred to “the deep dyed anti-Semitism that pervades all England.” She knew whereof she spake: Her sister Diana married Sir Oswald Mosely, the blackshirted Adolf wannabe behind the British Union of Fascists, in a secret ceremony in Goebbels’s apartment, with Hitler in attendance. To the end of her days, Diana remained a swastika girl at heart. In The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family, Mary S. Lovell quotes Diana’s remarks to a BBC interviewer in 1989. Hitler, she gushed, was “extraordinarily fascinating and clever.{ } Dina’s charming sister Unity—whose middle name was Valkyrie and who was conceived in Swastika, Ontario (I’m not making this up) —was an enthusiastic Nazi, too. She thought it hilarious when the Nazi governor of Franconia, the virulent anti-Semite Julius Streicher, forced a group of Jews to mow a meadow—with their teeth. (Again, our source is Lovell’s The Sisters.)”
Mark Dery (Ibid)

Wanda Pimentel

And yet, the most popular Netflix series last year was The Crown, the fatuous revisionist fantasy life of the current Queen. Dery has another short chapter on Hitler and Madison Avenue. This is complex, but the ruling classes of all nations share the same interests and sympathies, and that National Socialism should eventually be rehabilitated is not difficult to understand. As Dery notes, Hitler loved media. He put a lot of effort into his image, into branding his Party. But as Joachim Fest writes (from his book Hitler)…“A curious note of inferiority, a sense of stuntedness always overlay the phenomenon of Hitler, and not even the many triumphs could dispel this. All his personal traits did not add up to a real person. The reports and recollections we have from members of his entourage do not make him tangibly vivid as a man; he moves with masklike impersonality through a setting.” But the bourgeois clerk may be drawn to exactly this quality. The sense of personal alienation bred by social media, by screens in general, (and here Jonathan Beller is relevant again) the photographic image are all constituative in the manufacturing of white supremacism itself. Or the current incarnation of it. The assembled parts of fascist aesthetics are being repurposed for 21st century use in myriad ways.

The U.S. orchestrated a coup in Ukraine that put a Nazi party in power. I mean there are photos of John McCain and Biden on stage at a rally with leaders of this party. This is the real politik of the privileged white class in America (never mind the party put in power in the region, as a break off from Ukraine, named a street for Stepan Bandera, Nazi supporter, and decorated the local mall at Christmas with a huge swastika). But then, again, this is the point. Fascist resurgence has broken to the surface during the pandemic lockdowns. Certainly eastern Europe had large reservoirs of fascist sentiment slumbering since WW2. Remember Project Paperclip?

“As Allied forces crossed the English Channel during the D-Day invasion of June 1944, some 10,000 intelligence officers known as T-Forces were right behind the advance battalions. Their mission: seize munitions experts, technicians, German scientists and their research materials, along with French scientists who had collaborated with the Nazis. Soon a substantial number of such scientists had been picked up and placed in an internment camp known as the Dustbin. { } Operation Overcast was certainly under way by July 1945, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to bring into the US 350 German scientists, including Werner Von Braun and his V2 rocket team, chemical weapons designers, and artillery and submarine engineers. There had been some theoretical ban on Nazis being imported, but this was as empty as FDR’s edict. The Overcast shipment included such notorious Nazis and SS officers as Von Braun, Dr. Herbert Axster, Dr. Arthur Rudolph and Georg Richkey. Von Braun’s team had used slave labor from the Dora concentration camp and had worked prisoners to death in the Mittelwerk complex: more than 20,000 had died from exhaustion and starvation. The supervising slavemaster was Richkey. In retaliation against sabotage in the missile plant – prisoners would urinate on electrical equipment, causing spectacular malfunctions – Richkey would hang them twelve at a time from factory cranes, with wooden sticks shoved into their mouths to muffle their cries. In the Dora camp itself he regarded children as useless mouths and instructed the SS guards to club them to death, which they did.”
Alexander Cockburn (Operation Paperclip: Nazis Head West, Counterpunch 2017)

Disney made enthusiastic use of Von Braun when designing ‘tomorrow land’. If FDR had reservations about the wholesale import of high ranking Nazi engineers and scientists, Truman had none. (shock, that).

John Madu

“By 1946 a rationale based on Cold War strategy was becoming more important. Nazis were needed in the struggle against Communism, and their capabilities certainly had to be withheld from the Soviets. In September 1946 President Harry Truman approved the Dulles-inspired Paperclip project, whose mission was to bring no less than 1,000 Nazi scientists to the United States. Among them were many of the vilest criminals of the war: there were doctors from Dachau concentration camp who had killed prisoners by putting them through high altitude tests, who had freezed their victims and given them massive doses of salt water to research the process of drowning. There were the chemical weapons engineers such as Kurt Blome, who had tested Sarin nerve gas on prisoners at Auschwitz.”
Alexander Cockburn (Ibid)

The department of defense and the Pentagon went to great lengths after the war and on into the 50s to shelter the nazi criminals working for them. And the response when questioned about the employment of war criminals was that its better we have them then Stalin. This was the real engine driving nearly everything — fear and hatred of communism. And if that meant helping men who tortured Jewish women and children, well, you must break eggs to make that omelette.

Worth noting that former Nazis worked with every branch of the U.S. military, conducted secret experiments (such as giving radioactive oatmeal to kids, or the various LSD experiments on prisoners, the poor, and often the psychologically impaired, as well as, across the board, on blacks) and “Many of the prisoners in the experiments in the Oregon and Washington state prisons were given vasectomies or were surgically castrated. The doctor who performed the sterilization operations told the prisoners the sterilizations were necessary to “keep from contaminating the general population with radiation-induced mutants.”

Over fifty thousand children were exposed to cancer causing radiation from 1947 to 1963. And it may never be known just how many casualties there were since Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all CIA records on experimentation on humans. Von Braun became something of a celebrity, and wrote an auto biography titled “I Aim at the Stars” (for which I remember Mort Sahl suggesting a subtitle…’ but sometimes I hit London’).

And yet, and yet, during this pandemic the public is constantly told to ‘trust the science’.

Joanna Zastrozna, photography.

This quality of disgust, or revulsion, was according to Freud a reaction formation , a defense mechanism to reject the desired object. And revulsion is always associated with animal/human boundaries. It began with bad food, spoiled food. Its both taste and smell.

“Features of the anal character also live on in several inter-related traits that are mainstays of contemporary personality psychology, including perfectionism, disgust-proneness, authoritarianism and conscientiousness. The anal character stubbornly endures.”
Nick Haslam (Toilet Psychology, The British Psychological Society, 2012)

Revulsion is also tied into a shrinking of experience — the banality of existence and repetition. And fetishizing of excretion is linked to shame and disgust.

“Shame reflects a belief that the self is soiled or spoiled, whereas disgust reflects a perception that something outside the self is contaminating, either literally, as with faeces and rotten food, or metaphorically, as with rotten conduct. Moral disgust is triggered by violations of rules of purity and sacredness, and the emotion can intensify moral condemnation even when it is unrelated to what is being condemned. { } From excretion’s link to moral judgement it is a small step to its association with social attitudes. There is strong evidence that disgust-proneness is related to prejudice.”
Nick Haslam (Ibid)

Disney and Von Braun.

“Modern man makes his way home in the evening wearied by a jumble of events, but however entertaining or tedious, unusual or commonplace, harrowing or pleasurable they are, none of them will have become experience. It is this non-translatability into experience that now makes everyday existence intolerable- as never before-.”
Giorgia Agamben (Infancy and History)

I am trying to tie together a couple of historical threads, or trajectories, with the state of contemporary fascism. The majority of the human race clearly has seen through the propaganda coming from the WHO, WEF, the various western governments, but many, enough I fear, have not. And, most troubling, even among the clear headed and skeptical, one finds the residue of that propaganda, even if the content has changed.

Walter Benjamin has a famous paragraph on the state of the return soldiers of WW1. He marks this as the start of the loss of experience, the start of a new stage in the class struggle.

“men returned … grown silent- not richer, but poorer in communicable experience … What ten years later was poured out in the flood of war books was anything but experience that goes from mouth to mouth. And there was nothing remarkable about that. For never has experience been contradicted more thoroughly than strategic experience by tactical warfare, economic experience by inflation, bodily experience by mechanical warfare, moral experience by those in power. “
Walter Benjamin (The Storyteller)

Diana Watson

I would not argue this. But I think that the contamination of consciousness began much earlier. That may be a topic for another post. Here, though, I think the onset of capitalism, however one wants to date it, makes the clearest marker. For the other thread in this is *white supremacism*. And so the 350 years of the modern slave trade has to be included. And somewhere in this arose the neurotic modern individual. And Nick Haslam refers to it as the ‘return of the anal character’.

The Obsessive Compulsive (or OCPD) is the latest version of the anal character. Some suggest as many as 8% of the population of the U.S. and UK suffer from OCPD. And while its listed as a maladaptive mechanism, the OCPD personality tends to do well at work and badly in intimate relationships. One might wonder if there isn’t a kind of Political/capitalistic Darwinism at work. Rigid, conscientious, and detail oriented. Sounds perfect for Apple or Microsoft. In fact, it sounds like Bill Gates and Larry Page.

The anal character, OCPD, is often extraordinarily intolerant. The content of his intolerance is of no great importance to him or her, only that he or she is able to fit his or her subjective picture of perfection into his or her daily interactions. The OCPD is, in a sense, existentially intolerant.

Freud saw the anal character as having an exaggerated disgust response. There is a kind of triad that needs unpacking here; disgust, shame, and OCPD.

“There appear to be three underlying facets of disgust sensitivity: ‘core disgust’, which relates to rejection of offensive stimuli; ‘animal reminders’,which make us aware of our animal nature and origins; and ‘contamination’, which relates to the dread of catching a disease or other feared attribute from others.”
Nick Haslam (Psychology in the Bathroom)

William Holman (the scapegoat) 1856.

The disgust factor is something, however varied a particular individual may be in his or her triggers, hinges on sexual phobia. (see Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies). And usually disgust is linked to moistness, and a fear of the interior of unknown places (women often). There is also a pronounced homophobia in the anal character, and a tendency toward authoritarianism (Adorno, of course, noted this in the 40s). The anti-gay bias is present in both men and women who are diagnosed with OCPD. Now what is important here, are not so much the many other characteristics (attention to detail, hoarding, and collecting etc) but the moral dimension of disgust (and shame). (note that its likely time to re-read Wilhelm Reich).

But the resurgence of fascism is placed within the disenchantment of the modern world. Those who have embraced the pandemic narrative and follow, to the letter, all the restrictions, are those who have internalized some aspect of the anal character. The white bourgeoisie, in general, are those most comfortable. Their relative affluence is a huge factor, but it goes beyond that. The submission to the Great Reset is aligned with the acceptance of the pandemic restrictions.

“But why has the mainstream Left ended up supporting practically all Covid measures? How did such a simplistic view of the relationship between health and the economy emerge, one which makes a mockery of decades of (Left-leaning) social science research showing just how closely wealth and health outcomes are connected? Why did the Left ignore the massive increase in inequalities, the attack on the poor, on poor countries, on women and children, the cruel treatment of the elderly, and the huge increase in wealth for the richest individuals and corporations resulting from these policies?”
Toby Green & Thomas Fazi (The Left’s Covid Failure)


This is a basic question just now. One that has been discussed on the Aesthetic Resistance podcasts. And Green and Fazi give good answers, but I think there is more.
Their entire paper is here:

And I think a part of that ‘more’ in the answer has to do with the drastic decline in education, the deleterious affects of smart phones and screen habituation. And the Disneyfication of aesthetics, the strange cultic attachment to a fictive idea of science, and a growing alienation from experience — that the ‘screen age’ has produced a culture , in the white bourgeoisie anyway, perilously close to OCPD.

“If the ego is unable to unfold as an independent, autonomous agency, it remains emotionally and spiritually stunted.This is the “small ego,” which is bound, morally and at the level of the drive structure, to unconscious and “external” agencies. { } The “small ego” of such a nonintegrated personality, profoundly incapable of any action that transcends the limits of a narrowly conceived self-interest or interest of the subject’s own group, mirrors according to Adorno the goal-oriented rationality of capitalism, which in the advanced phase of its diffusion recognizes nothing beyond the exploitation of objects for profit.”
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

There is one more side here worth attention. I quote Rensmann again…

“If the ego is too weak to develop the capacity to integrate seemingly overwhelming instinctual desires and the superego, and thus the individual’s conscience is externalized, that is, not integrated into the self, and hardly brought in tune with the requirements of reality, internal conflicts cannot be mastered. This may lead to anxiety- filled, tormented reactions. The superego appears as particularly rigid in the attempt to bring the internal chaos and aggressions in sync. The result, according to Adorno, is a destructive congestion of the drives, severe repres- sion of the subject’s instinctual needs, which then manifest in the authoritarian individual’s furtive fascination with the sexual.”

Pedro Meyer, photography.

The proliferation of porn on the internet is an expression of this, but I think the direction and content of the most popular porn sites has also shifted. But Adorno noted that the authoritarian subject has a stunted emotional life, and a growing incapacity to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Such a condition results in acute anxiety, and in a dependency on the voices of authority. In western societies, today, the figure of authority is experienced via institutional voices (experts). Submission to a very historically determined idea of *science* (and research). There is, following Freud, a failed resolution of the Oedipus complex, regression to infantile drives and aims, to an archaic form of the self. The ego simply never develops properly. It is a return, really, to anal-sadistic solutions of development — Oedipal or not.

And this accounts for the moral dimension today of the in-group, the believers in mainstream definitions of science who then feel exaggerated moral outrage at those not conforming to the institutional figures of power. This is the real change that has occurred since the second World War. Today the WHO and the WEF and those vetted voices of science to which one must submit. Hitler has become a global health institution. And there is a strange embrace of the very wealthy, the unelected ruling priests of Capital, Gates and Page and Musk and their ventriloquist dummies such as Fauci or Tedros. And it is not hard to observe leaders such as the visibly demented Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand who gleefully chatters away to her citizenry as if talking to a kindergarten class. She can barely contain her pleasure at invoking restrictions and punishments. The world stage resembles Sesame Street.

“The authoritarian individual is thus always an “adjusted” individual, a conformist. Since he has neither worked through the renunciation of his instinctual desires nor formed an autonomous subjectivity vis-à-vis authoritarian power, he is beaten and powerless and conforms to whatever system is in power, particularly if it represents hardness, order, and physical force. He takes on the coldness and inflexibility with which he was treated, while the deadened or damagingly constrained libidinal needs manifest themselves in distorted ways: in longing for the empty “warmth” of authoritarian community and the soldierly romanticism of the bivouac, and in the bond with a leader. Accordingly, it is argued, the most thoroughly adjusted individuals, who conform most to a certain “middle-class culture,” also tend to harbor the most prejudices.”
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

Edward Burne Jones

What is so startling today is that artists and culture workers are among the most adjusted and conformist. The gradual eradication of sub culture and an avant-garde has left the creative impulse in a kind of limbo. Social media has bred addictions to rage and ridicule, and little more, really. A study Nick Haslam notes was done on graffiti in public restrooms…

“If graffiti-writing simply represented a benign flowering of creativity then anti-authoritarians would tend to do more of it,but the opposite pattern was observed.Frequent writers scored higher on a survey assessing conformity, submission to traditional authority and punitiveness towards people who violate social norms. In this study much of the graffiti that were observed were anti-gay and hostile to members of other groups, a kind of latrinalia for which authoritarians might have special gifts.”
Nick Haslam (Psychology in the Bathroom)

The anal character then, linked inextricably with authoritarian tendencies, is going to take up a lot of space on social media .

“Just as the authoritarian subject needs to contain, punish, project, or deaden the chaotic drive energies that build up in his own psyche, countering them with strict adherence to hierarchical order, so, too, does he aspire to rebuild the external world of the living as a dead world, one that would function according to his rigid principles of order.”
Lars Rensmann (Ibid)

The dead world of the pandemic lockdowns, the empty streets, the boarded up restaurants and clubs, this is exactly what the authoritarian subject desires. And even with the blatant privilege granted to the wealthy and celebrities, whose private jets never stop flying, and whose parties are openly flaunting all social distancing rules and mask edicts, the authoritarian follower, the anal character of today, seems not to notice.

Doug Aitken

“It might be hypothesized that one reason why people in modern society—even those who are otherwise “intelligent” or “informed”—resort to primitive, oversimplified explanations of human events is that so many of the ideas and observations needed for an adequate account are not allowed to enter into the calculations: because they are affect-laden and potentially anxiety-producing, the weak ego cannot include them within its scheme of things.”
Theodor Adorno, et al (The Authoritarian Personality)

When Marx wrote (Grundrisse)…“Hunger is hunger, but the hunger gratified by cooked meat eaten with a knife and fork is a different hunger from that which bolts down raw meat with the aid of hand, nail and tooth. Production thus produces not only the object but also the manner of consumption, not only objectively but subjectively.”

He was describing something inescapable about societal progress. And one can’t quite deny this, but it is also an almost metaphor for what digitalization has done to contemporary human experience. The so called attention economy produces a kind of attention, which it mines, and collects — but the experience of this attention is not the attention of sitting and watching Paul Scofield perform Lear. This sort of thing is not new, but it has become intensified and pervasive today. In the West nearly everyone conducts life on their smart phone. So life is trivialized. And there is, as Agamben notes, something untranslatable about it. Others have said much the same thing, and Agamben, as a slight digression, is a highly problematic thinker. Firstly, he’s not a Marxist, and I have no idea the degree of hostility he holds for Marx. And his politics (at least before the Venice speech quote above) was pretty reactionary. Not as bad as Badiou or Zizek, but bad enough. And here it is worth observing that academia, in nearly all branches but certainly philosophy, has a lack of radical dissenters. Its the professionalization of thinking. It is much like theatre where people want that MFA in playwrighting or directing the better to later teach. Or they write work following the academic model, regardless of whether they lose their voice in the process or not. Where does one find graduate students attacking the near fascism of a Badiou for example? I was reading a chapter by Antonio Vadolas, who has written some good stuff on psychoanalysis and culture, but he firstly never questioned the conflation of fascism and communism, nor the comparison of Hitler and Stalin, and then even brought up Milosevic in the same breath as Saddam Hussein. This is stuff you should know by grad school. How can anyone still be confused about the break up of Yugoslavia? Honestly, how is that even possible? It speaks to a wilful ignorance. And as an anecdotal aside, the most popular author I find in countless PhD theses on history and politics is Hannah Arendt. And Arendt is mostly a pretty terrible writer and one with an agenda at that (clean up the Nazi image the better to reinstate Heidegger. That was the gig. Full stop.) End of digression.

“They were enthusiastic technicians with the mission according to Goebbels of
saving Germany. “

Walter Jessel, second Lt. June 1945 (quoted in Our Germans, Brian Crim)

Albrecht Altdorfer (Satyr with bagpipe, 1530)

Throughout the pandemic and certainly forefronted in the propaganda of the ‘Great Reset’, is the idea of saving — rescuing or protecting. Save the planet, save your grandmother, save the future. Protect the planet, protect nature, protect grandma. There is a quality of messianism running through the marketing, and I sometimes wonder if its even intentional. For the climate marketing, it’s clear they have pushed something akin to an evangelical tone, in a mash up with New Age bromides and cliches. But even the pandemic has taken on a tone I last heard on charismatic christian preachers.

Now, I was struck how often when you read descriptions of the Nazis you hear the word technician. The emphasis is always on precision and a near Euclidean code of duty. Agamben’s observation that the pandemic is now a religion certainly seems correct. And the authoritarian subjects of the affluent white bourgeoisie, those of the new OCPD variant of anal-sadism, are eager to join in this new crusade, a planetary exercise in white saviourism. And yet, millions of people around the world are protesting. My sense is these are mostly working class people, those hit hardest by this new religion. I think they fear for their children (shit, I fear for my children). And then Africa, a continent barley vaccinated at all, whose population has near unanimously rejected the entire narrative.

So the question is really in what way the engagement with screens, with social media, and with electronic media has contributed to the weakening of an already weak ego, a ‘small ego’, and in turn this weak ego has intensified this divorce from our bodies, and a reliance on an ever stricter super-ego. Or, perhaps more, that this screen habituation has reinforced a societal encouragement to think instrumentally, to mimic those symptoms found in OCDP, and perhaps that mimic of symptom becomes actual symptom. For what is illness, exactly, in a society so aggressively irrational and manipulative. What one has seen over twenty years is the the manufacturing of the anal character, and the simultaneous evisceration of any counter culture.

Rudolf Schlichter (1924)

The absence today of radical art is something I have written about a great deal on this blog. One could find other descriptions, serious art, or work that resists commodification in some way, an art whose truth component lives on regardless if it is hanging in the lobby of Chase Manhattan Bank. But along with this retreat from ambitious work, work of integrity, is the loss of culture over all. There are few places to gather informally and talk. There is little cross pollination except at controlled locations like University arts departments. And the entertainment industry openly ridicules the idea of collective projects of creativity. It ridicules artists generally, much as it does intellectuals. The exceptions reveal the truth of this. The Dan Brown franchises for example, with nerdy know it alls who are in service of the state. The signifier for genius today is ‘computer genius. Nobody is a genius of calligraphy or poetry.

The pandemic has been fed credibility by countless doctors and scientists. I want to make clear that science is as prone to sell-out as any other field, and perhaps more, actually.

“Nazi science enabled the worst atrocities committed by the Third Reich. Scientists and engineers, even those with few party affiliations or minimal ideological commitment, willingly lent their talents to the regime in exchange for professional advancement and the opportunity to continue their research with limitless funding or institutional support. { } . Consequently, scientists and engineers, specifically the V-2 specialists and others involved in aeronautics, participated in several areas of criminality. First, slave labor built the panoply of wonder weapons for the Third Reich. The SS reacted to and interacted with the experts when supplying the bodies needed. Second, several scientists acquired through Paperclip had some involvement in the notorious medical experiments conducted on concentration camp victims. { } The SS expanded a facility in a mountain called Kohnstein, near Nordhausen, in the province of Thuringia. The SS and Albert Speer’s Ministry of Armaments together created the Mittelwerk Company, comprising several SS officials to oversee construction and manage the project. After first leveraging labor from neighboring Buchenwald to build the underground complex and then work on the assembly line, the SS established Mittelbau-Dora in summer 1944 as a separate camp serviced by a network of forty smaller camps. The Dora camppredated the evacuation of Peenemünde, supplying twenty thousand prisoners for the production of Junkers aircraft and the Vergeltungswaffe 1 (retribution weapon), or V-1, “flying bomb” produced by the Luftwaffe. The Mittelbau complex provided approximately sixty thousand laborers for the V-2 and V-1 from August 1943 to April 1945. In that time twenty thousand died from starvation, sickness, injuries, mistreatment, and executions. Andrè Sellier, an inmate at Dora and a historian of the camp, described being “caught in a power struggle between the SS and the civil and military technocrats: in other words, between Arms Minister Albert Speer and his engineers, Wehrmacht military specialists, and the team of rocket specialists behind von Braun.” The systematic use of concentration camp labor, to which none of the interested parties objected, aided the SS in its ambition to control the Reich’s war industry. According to recently discovered documents, the SS went so far as to test the V-2 on German villages in Pomerania and blame the destruction on Allied bombers. Such callous depravity on the part of the SS only minimized the Paperclippers’ “lesser crimes” of consent or indifference during the Paperclip deliberations.”
Brian Crim (Our Germans)

Ode Bertrand

More people died building the V2 rocket program than were killed by the rocket. By the end of the war the German war machine was driven by overwrought and near hysterical zealots, at the top of which fetid pyramid was Hitler himself. The wholesale and often casual murder of slave labour, was commonplace at all the major German munitions and building plants. The scientists and engineers interacted with the slave labor, they were there for random hangings, and for the constant beatings. And they designed chemical and gas weapons, and they took part in medical experiments on prisoners (Jews mostly but certainly at this point many resistance fighters, Roma, and other undesirables). The scientists knew this was coming years before. All of them could have left. They did not. The best career opportunities were in the Reich.

Adorno noted that anti semitism increased after the end of WW2, not lessened. As Zvi Rex observed, “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.” So Americans could not tolerate Jews for creating these problems for those good clean cut handsome scientists like Von Braun.

“American Jews were inexplicably blamed for controversy surrounding the more notorious Paperclippers. Shortly after the German epidemiologist Walter Schreiber joined the staff at the Air Force School of Medicine in 1951,several press outlets reported his links to medical experimentation during the Third Reich, prompting the air force, CIA, and JIOA to facilitate his emigration to Argentina.101 Allen Dulles personally handled the matter, agreeing that the United States could benefit from Schreiber’s knowledge if he served a friendly regime like Argentina’s. Unfortunately for the air force, a group of American doctors released damning military documents and protested Schreiber’s continued employment all the way to the White House. One embarrassing memo quoted an air force official who declared Schreiber “too hotfor me” and blamed “an organized medical movement against [Schreiber], emanating from Boston, by medical men of Jewish ancestry, I would suspect.” Thirty-five years later, Arthur Rudolph’s defenders also implied that “his critics were bitter Jews who harbored anti-German sentiment.”
Brian Crim (Ibid)

The perculiar convergence of digitalization, the new economics of the Reset, and the influence, now, from the billionaires of Silicon Valley, along with the growing isolation and alienation of the American public, with the historical force of racism and anti semitism is finding expression in the messianic religion of Covid. The dead world of the pandemic, the hyper isolation and intentional neglect of the old is really what was behind The Happiest Place on Earth, just nobody cared to look. The historical influence of Disney and both his cartoons (the features which anticipated crane tracking shots and cinemascope) and his sensibility and amusement parks was always one aligned with fascism. One felt that even as a child. Disneyland was fun, for a while, until it wasn’t. The obvious depravity of those Nazi scientists was ignored the better to fight the threat of communism. Fascism was fine, in fact America was always headed toward fascism anyway, but that darn Soviet Union and Commie China posed the real threat. Disney was the face of America. The old Donald Duck cartoons were (as Ariel Dorfman wrote about in How to Read Donald Duck ) parables of monopoly capitalism. And of colonialism. (Adventureland could as well have been named Colonialism Land, and Frontierland been called Manifest Destiny land, and Tomorrowland, well, it was sort of the world imagined by Nazi scientists). The Reich lived on, because finally (with some notable exceptions) the US ruling class liked Hitler (oh ok, he went a bit too far, but…hey…) Disney also invited and paid for a visit from Nazi filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl. And converging here too is Pop Art and the ascension of irony. Nazi regalia as de rigour for S&M fantasies is also a statement of irony. At some point children seated at school desks surrounded by a plastic cage will be seen much the same way.

Anselm Kiefer , photography.

Robert Bly died this week, age 94. It will take me some time before I can write about Bly, because I have not yet processed a world without him. RIP Robert. (and I hate this new trend to say Rest in Power. When I die, I don’t want power, I want peace.)

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  1. As a way to inject some humor into the conversation, we should reread Delillo’s White Noise. I wish I had some of the background information you’ve offered here when I first encountered it (in a graduate course on cultural studies, of all places), but there’s something to be said about the first encounter with art that’s relatively unmediated. Innocence, maybe? The book can still make me laugh out loud as well as shake my head at the astounding prescience of cultural drift, offered up in a heady mix of Big Pharma, the Airborne Toxic Event (“You have to make allowances for the fact that everything we see tonight is real. There’s a lot of polishing we still have to do,” an emergency evacuation staff member tells a curious Jack Gladney), Nazis, supermarkets, Benjamin and the Frankfort School, and the fragile peace of sleeping children and menacingly beautiful sunsets.

    I thank you for reminding others of the encompassing intelligence of Alexander Cockburn. I recall the disequilibrium his otherwise staunch defenders felt when he began to voice his skepticism over the environmental/global warming movement. The neolibs who championed his acidic commentaries on political shenanigans were flabbergasted he wasn’t coming along for the greenwashed ride. I’d be surprised if one could find his apostatic remarks preserved by the self-appointed bearers of his journalistic excellence. His loss – and Gore Vidal who died a month or so later – was a blow to real critics of empire.

  2. Joanna Folino says:

    Well, here is the new world:

  3. As always, I come away from reading Steppling with a year’s reading to do. I am grateful for this good and necessary work.

  4. Regino Robainas says:

    That’s the way it’s got to be and baby, the rain
    must fall and the wind— So, most likely the
    realists-particularly the materialist sect-should
    turn out to be the winners of the arching contests.
    Germans still make the best tools, weapoms, and dolls, thou
    the Chinese are catching up in dreadful speed-ups. For
    “when same day delivery is too slow”, a new gentry class
    class war affectation.

    And Hitler shook for Shirley and Walt’s Disney fantasies as
    much as for his lovely near-pubescent niece. So, onward
    quixotic soldiers, we must make a work of art out of a
    big pile of shit, our history. Amor fati fields forever.

  5. Dorian JR says:

    Quoting from the article: …….. I think that the contamination of consciousness began much earlier. That may be a topic for another post. Here, though, I think the onset of capitalism, however one wants to date it, makes the clearest marker. ………

    The clearest marker is not at all clear, as argued by Fernand Braudel’s three-volume study of the history of capitalism. One of its main messages is that of a stunning lack of clarity about the nature of capitalism, including how the term should be defined, and consequently its origins. It’s so stunning, it made me wonder if the author isn’t obtuse, either deliberately or spontaneously, which wouldn’t be all too unexpected from a Parisian elite member. But, no better study is to be found AFAICS, and other critics of the modern economic-political world, of a much lower station, make the same point.

    Walt Disney : “It’s the century of the Jew, the union cutthroat, the fag, and the whore!”

    Well, in this time of censorship, when even the most powerful people avoid speaking their mind openly, what a relief it is to read this quote, however prejudiced it may be.
    Especially given that Walt Disney worked with “fags” closely, elevated them to high positions, and treated them well _by all accounts_. Likewise with Jews.
    As for his mention of “whores,” it led me to this thought experiment:

    A questionnaire for self-reflection:

    How would you feel his own child to be sent to Disney, for an indefinite time?

    How would you feel his own child to be sent to Hitler, for an indefinite time?

    How would you feel his own child to be sent to Bill Gates, or Bezos, … for an indefinite time?

    Our most terrified response may well be to the third question.


    >>Certainly eastern Europe had large reservoirs of fascist sentiment slumbering since WW2. <>Adorno noted that anti semitism increased after the end of WW2…..<> the unelected ruling priests of Capital, Gates and Page and Musk <>[T]he most popular author I find in countless PhD theses on history and politics is Hannah Arendt. And Arendt is mostly a pretty terrible writer and one with an agenda at that (clean up the Nazi image the better to reinstate Heidegger. That was the gig. Full stop.)<<

    No argument: the point is just so likeable.


  6. John Steppling says:

    Disney was roundly disliked by his artists. He overworked them and underpaid them. They even had a strike though not driven by personal distate for the boss. So by all accounts he was actually a nasty little reactionary and racist.

  7. John Steppling says:
  8. Regino Robainas says:

    There is, at the heart oe kernel of our
    sacred landposts, one aspect shows the
    strange light of understanding, and
    another aspect represents the world, perhaps as
    a distorted aesthetic phenomenon. And, still a third
    creates out of that ineffable representation and

    The fascist jackboots smashing our souls & bodies
    take on many shapes from Henry Ford to Disney to
    Texas governors controlling reproductive rights or
    preventing women education in Afghanistan or in Amerika’s
    false History classrooms. Bite to draw fatal blood on
    the legs behind the neonazi boots.

  9. Regino Robainas says:

    What does nobility mean, if anything at all, beyond the
    range of logical positivists? It should mean something
    like uou or someone has confronted in some way what we
    used to call the “man”, inflicted some additional weakness
    in his deadly system and lived to sing about it or properly
    praised posthumously.

  10. John
    Great podcast as usual, although I miss the artist talk of previous episodes. Cory mentioned a 500-ish year old essay near the end. Any chance you could spell it out for the weak of hearing?

  11. John Steppling says:
  12. Regino Robainas says:
  13. John Steppling says:

    thanks my friend.

  14. Regino Robainas says:

    Amici Aeterni.

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