The Motorcade Drives On

Peter Paul Rubens (Massacre of the Innocents, 1611, detail)

“For, according to Lacan, even the word “corpse” is a euphemism in reference to the real.”
Friedrich Kittler (Gramaphone, Film, Typewriter)

“If all goes well, I will be able to treat myself again with one or two fashion shows.”
Walter Benjamin (in letter to Greta Karplus {Adorno}, quoted in Philipp Ekardt’s ‘Benjamin on Fashion’)

“They want a contact with the opposite sex—or perhaps simply access to sexuality itself—which cannot be named, a contact in which they can dissolve themselves while forcibly dissolving the other sex. They want to penetrate into its life, its warmth, its blood. It seems to me that they aren’t just more intemperate, dangerous, and cruel than Freud’s harmless “motherfucker” Oedipus; they are of an entirely other order.”
Klaus Theweleit (Male Fantasies, vol 1)

There have been more mass shootings in the US in 2023 than there have been days. In Gaza, the Israeli state is openly carrying out a genocide. (A textbook genocide, writes historian Raz Segal, himself an Israeli). The current Israeli state is driven, in terms of policy, largely by the Otzma Yehudit party and its leader Itamar Ben Gvir. Alongside these events is a winding down of the Ukraine/NATO proxy war against Russia. All of this is set against the complex backdrop of western cultural decay. All of these things beg multiple questions. Now, while Ben-Gvir is a partiuclarly noxious extremist, it needs to be noted that Israel was from its inception a settler colonial project that enforced its displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians through violence. It has occupied them for 75 years through violence, too. So, to suggest that Israeli society has lurched further to the right is, indeed, saying something remarkable.

But certain issues have nagged at me. And my last two posts are certainly related. How could an extremist party like Otzma Yehudit become so influential? On the face of it the leading figures in this party are deeply unappealing. Ben-Gvir himself is an overweight, sloppy fat little man, who appears unkempt and sweaty — he is not the stereotype for charismatic. Nor is anyone else in the party leadership. And the settlers who comprise the bulk of this party refuse military service and get paid a rather generous annuity from the state. And all this has puzzled me. First, watch David Sheen’s lecture here.

The depravity of this party is almost impossible to describe. The celebration of the murder of children is hard to fully grasp, and yet increasingly such horrors are being normalized in western society. Certainly they have been in Israel, but the US is not far behind. And Canada, and Australia, and the UK and corners of the rest of the Europe. Other topics are raised in all this; the role of propaganda for one. And the role of media (they overlap). In the case of *mass shooters* (defined as nine or more victims) there are a number of commonalities. Most are white. Overwhelmingly white. All are male (with three exceptions, I think). Nearly all are Christians ( of the Evangelical branch of Christianity associated with Televangelists) and nearly all had dysfunctional abusive and traumatic childhoods. Nearly all suffered from hugely damaged parenting. And nearly all were on, or had just stopped using, psychiatric medications. This last claim is aggressively disputed, though, by mainstream media. And there is always the correlation is not causation argument, too. But to deny the problems of SSRIs and other psychotropics is a bit hard to do at this point. Still, that is not the point of this post (see previous post for more on that).

Haifa, Palestine. Early 1940s.

The point is that the U.S. has nearly 900 military bases around the world. It is the largest and most active military in the world. It is, by extension then, the largest polluter in the world (as a sort of footnote here). The U.S. is and has always been a profoundly racist country. The U.S. has the largest number of prisoners in the world, both per capita and in real numbers and has among the worst prison conditions in the world. It is currently suffering a massive homelessness crisis. Poverty is increasing, child hunger is increasing (and both were already bad) and unemployment is catastrophic. Now, the government lies about all of this. Literally, lies about every single issue. Much as Israel lies about everything. Literally, everything. The U.S. and Israel both are prone to accuse other states of their own crimes. This habitual reflex lying has helped foster an, at least, partial schizoid subject position in the populations of both countries. The U.S. almost non-stop chastises other countries for human rights violations, and yet itself is a world leader in human rights violations (though it pales before the leader, which is Israel). Israel is often referred to as the only Democracy in the middle east. It is not the *only*, it is not even *a* democracy. It is a racist apartheid state. Israel has thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. They are more or less denied all rights. Many are teenagers. But the worst of Israeli crimes is the now accelerated ethnic cleansing of Gaza. The bombing of Hospitals (which the IDF attempted to justify, rather half heartedly, by claiming it was a Hamas stronghold turned out to be wrong). The bombing of nursery schools.The propaganda is now so threadbare and inept that even the BBC, a longtime supporter of Zionism has accused Tel Aviv of openly lying and manufacturing fake evidence. Bombing nursery schools and murdering doctors and nurses has set a new benchmark for moral deviance.

Now, the truth is that I could continue to catalogue the crimes of Zionism, dating back to 1948. It is simpler to suggest reading Miko Pelid, Illan Pappe, and Raz Segal, just for starters. The more pressing questions are those that tie the psyches of contemporary U.S. and Israeli citizens together. Not to mention the rise of far right parties throughout the world (Argentina just elected a probably mentally ill right wing fanatic as President. Same questions apply. A visibly unwell man is now leading the second largest nation in South America). Meloni in Italy or the rise of AfD in Germany or the Tories in the UK (yes, acutely far right) or the Swedish Democrats, the FINNS Party in Finland, the SMER party in Slovakia, the VOX party in Spain, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and a few others. Not all are in power, but all are influential. Still, the right/left paradigm is less and less relevant in some respects. There is a quasi authoritarian, Viktor Orban, in Hungary, who is anti NATO and isolationist, and while the perception paints him as fascist, the truth is, probably Orban has the virtue, at least, of refusing U.S. diktats, and that alone makes him more (sort of) palatable than a Rishi Sunak. But this is not really the topic here, though it does provide more backdrop to the current state of insanity that seems to be emerging globally. And cutting across all of this (to return to propaganda) is the role of the electronic media, and its bastard child social media.

Gustav Wunderwald (Berlin 1927)

“In 1962-63, five prominent texts shedding light on the role of oral communication appeared within twelve months: La Pensee sauvage (Claude Levi-Strauss), The Gutenberg Galaxy (Marshall McLuhan), Animal Species and Evolution (Ernst Mayr), “The Consequences of Literacy” (Jack Goody and Ian Watt), and Havelock’s own Preface to Plato. What united these publications, Havelock argued, was the fact that their authors belonged to the first generation to be shaped by a world in which a print-biased media ecology had been altered by new ways of recording, storing, and transmitting sounds and voices, including the radiogenic Austrian dialect of a German dictator. Indeed, how could a generation of listeners acoustically nurtured on short-wave broadcasts of fireside chats, burning airships, Martian invasions, and calls for total war not grow up to ponder the changing relationship between speech and writing?”
Geoffrey Winthrop Young (Introduction to Friedrich Kittler’s Gramaphone, Film, Typwriter)

There is something lurking around the edges of phenomenon like the on-line *incel* culture (involuntary celibate) and 4Chan, and the dramatic decline in sexual activity among the young. And with falling birth rates (which clearly is also the result of acute pollution and the adulteration of basic foods). There is something embedded in the growing numbers of mass shootings and overall violence in the West (mainly the U.S.). And with the grotesque appearance of the leading Israeli far right politicians, because they represent the very worst most sadistic cruelty I have seen in my lifetime, and find mass approval and popularity. The influence of American evangelical preachers, the so called Christian Zionists, like John Hagee, is significant. These are fascist orators, each modified to suit a specific demographic. Ben-Gvir, Hagee, Milei, and Trump or Biden or now Tony Blair. Blair who is like the return of the repressed unto himself. Something is lurking that is tied deeply into our erotic selves, or more, our sense and feelings of desire and pleasure, as well as guilt and repulsion.

“The two positions observed by Freud – the active-sadistic and the passive-masochistic – subsequently taken by the patient in relation to excrements and defecation, refer us to two sets of psychosocial meaning. The first, i.e. the provocative acts of soiling the bed, can be understood as an ambivalent mix of creative playfulness and aggressive, controlling and manipulative tendencies that feed into notions of moulding and controlling one’s environment and relationships. The second position, i.e. the loss of control over defecation, is more directly linked with castration anxieties and painful feelings of powerlessness, tied to ideas of being effeminate in a social context in which a traditional, strong masculinity dominates.”
Steffen Krüger (Anal sexuality and male subcultures online: The politics of self-deprecation in the deep vernacular web)

“The general digitization of channels and information erases the differences among individual media. Sound and image, voice and text are reduced to surface effects, known to consumers as interface. Sense and the senses turn into eyewash. Their media-produced glamor will survive for an interim as a by-product of strategic programs. Inside the computers themselves everything becomes a number: quantity without image, sound, or voice. And once optical fiber networks turn formerly distinct data flows into a standardized series of digitized numbers, any medium can be translated into any other. With numbers, everything goes. Modulation, transformation, synchronization; delay, storage, transposition; scrambling, scanning, mappinga total media link on a digital base will erase the very concept of medium. Instead of wiring people and technologies, absolute knowledge will run as an endless loop.”
Friedrich Kittler (Gramaphone, Film, Typewriter)

Nazareth, turn of 20th century. Photographer unknown.

The analysis of technology, vis a vis aesthetics and culture is, perhaps surprisingly, the key to understanding global madness. Kittler notes that the typewriter replaced the flow and sensual movement of cursive writing with a staccato jerkiness, one replete with empty spaces between the letters. By the time of audio recording and then film, the caesura in our reasonings had been incorporated into the production of meaning (like Kafka’s tigers at the temple).

More though, there is a long anticipation of this violence, of industrialized killing. Traverso is right that it began, in earnest with WW1, but the age of mechanical discovery was driven by the logic of a violence and death wish that has reached completion, or nearly, today. Jonathan Beller and Kittler both are rather amazingly close in their reading here.

“The history of the movie camera thus coincides with the history of automatic weapons. The transport of pictures only repeats the transport of bullets. In order to focus on and fix objects moving through space, such as people, there are two procedures: to shoot and to film. In the principle of cinema resides mechanized death as it was invented in the nineteenth century: the death no longer of one’s immediate opponent but of serial nonhumans. Colt’s revolver aimed at hordes of Indians, Gatling’s or Maxim’s machine-gun (at least that is what they had originally been designed to do) at aboriginal peoples.”
Friedrich Kittler (Ibid)

To understand this transcendental anticipatory history (and see previous post on *wetlauf*, because Hegal again looms over everything, it seems) it is necessary to see the genuine outlines of popular culture.

Poster for Battleship Potemkin (1925) USSR

“At the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, a V2-the first cruise missile in the history of warfare, developed at the Peenemunde Army Test Site-explodes over the Orpheus movie theater in Los Angeles. In grandiose time axis manipulation, which a fictitious drug by the name of Oneirine grants the whole novel, the launch is correctly dated March 1945, but the rocket does not hit its target until 1970, when the novel was written.”
Friedrich Kittler (Ibid)

This is also Philip K. Dick. This is exactly The Man in the High Castle. It is Werner Von Braun at Disneyland.

“The off-ground detonator of the V2 kicks in, and a ton of Amatol, the rocket’s payload, explodes. Shortly thereafter, the image on the screen dissolves, as if the projection bulb were blowing out, but only so that its orphic truth can shine forth. “
Friedrich Kittler (Ibid)

Kittler perceptively notes that Freud (in Studies on Hysteria) suggested patients would get rid of troublesome images (from dreams) by turning them into words. Hysterical patients were visual, obsessives were literary. The reach of Pynchon, as time passes, feels more and more pertinent. It may well be Dick and Pynchon are the most prophetic of writers for the early 21st century.

“Certainly, Dr. Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ( 1920) seems to see cinema itself as part of the genealogy of the circus. The action as a whole confronts small-town life and vagrants. The titular hero appears as a traveling circus artist accompanied by a somnambulist medium who predicts the future for Caligari’s paying customers. But the paths leading from the fairgrounds to Caligari are as tenuous as those leading (according to Siegfried Kracauer’s simplified sociological reading) From *Caligari to Hitler*. In film and/or history, mass hysterias are, rather, the effect of massively used media technologies, which in turn have solid scientific foundation in theories of the unconscious. Caligari’s wagon moves toward the motorcade of the Third Reich.”
Friedrich Kittler (Ibid)

There is in the Imperialism of the United States, as it exists today, a sense that history has been destroyed. The actual nightmare history of the slave trade and plantation life, the history of Manifest Destiny, and the history of Hiroshima. But more, the history of its cultural greatness. Of Coltrane and Hank Williams, John Ford and Pollock. Of Melville and Highsmith. The cultural is utterly gone now. The nightmare leaves traces. And in the techo fetishization of smart phones and the even more useless electric cars and solar panels comes the direct line back to the discovery of psychoanalysis. The motorcade of the Third Reich entering Paris is echoed by the motorcade entering Dealy Plaza in 1963.

Cinema, Jaffa 1937. (courtesy Tarek Bakri)

“Once memories and dreams, the dead and ghosts, become technically reproducible, readers and writers no longer need the powers of hallucination. Our realm of the dead has withdrawn from the books in which it resided for so long. As Diodor of Sicily once wrote, “it is no longer only through writing that the dead remain in the memory of the living.”
Friedrich Kittler (Ibid)

“As Klaus Theweleit discussed (1987), the fascist soldier embodies a particular kind of masculinity that is driven by destructive affect. He kills others in order to defend against his own feelings of bodily disintegration. It is particularly the (fantasy of) woman that threatens the soldier. In killing her, he defends against his own female, soft, passionate and eroticised elements. It is the ideology of fascism that provides the soldier with a feeling of totality that keeps feelings of bodily disintegration at bay. The online communities that incels have created, like fascism, attempt to integrate their fragmented egos into a feeling of totality. “
Jacob Johanssen (Incels, Online Misogyny and Psychoanalysis)

There is something in Israeli society, a gruesomeness, a quality of bravado, of arrogance, certainly, but it is stupendously hollow and empty — and this emptiness is part of the horror. The habitual dishonesty, this unsettling sense the Israeli spokesperson or solider WANTS you to know he or she is being insincere. Social media sites like TikTok or Instagram are flooded with IDF soldiers. Many women, sometimes drunk. Or pretending to be, to ease the flatness of these confessional performances. (actors are always doing at least two things, one of which is forgetting who they are). This is Israeli performance art. The weight of dead children is impossible to carry. Things *will* emerge, they *will* surface. The social and the individual cannot carry this weight, this guilt, this shame. Not even the most fanatical and indoctrinated. Stripped of the ceremonial trappings of sacrifice (see Mayan or Aztec or Dahomey or the Great Death Pit in the ancient city of Ur) this is a technologically mediated frenzy of human sacrifice, the reality of which makes it even worse. Now, the Israeli military has a high percentage of female soldiers. They are the ersatz *male* soldiers needed for this cast, for this spectacle. For there is precious little actual fighting. This is another video screen war. Drones, and fighter jets, indiscriminately dropping bombs on the very most vulnerable areas of Gaza. It was telling that several IDF soldiers planted (sic) an Israeli flag atop the Haifa Hospital, staged much like the iconic photo from Iwo Jima. Resorting to such kitsch propaganda is for their own benefit, not anyone else for nobody else believes it. The Israeli state has increasingly absorbed American Zionists, settlers mostly, though only part time (seasonal zionists as Shahed Bolsen puts it). They are tourists experiencing something *authentic* and exotic. They are also provincials, and largely from big urban centers. They are bourgeois by class, and uncharacteristically for Jews in general, unsophisticated. And they do not want to fight.

Jan Toorop (1927)

“Medea Benjamin in *Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote Control*, shows clearly how drone warfare is an effort to emasculate the enemy. The observation grafts the psychologistics of the drone directly in line with the cinematic gaze. She also cites a 2003 Department of Defense computer program designed to show the human cost of an attack.” “The dead show up as blob-like images, resembling squashed insects, which is why the program was called ‘Bugsplat.’ Bugsplat also became the “in-house” slang referring to drone deaths.” The automation that renders targets castrated or as vermin as a means to annihilation and thus also as a means to corporate/imperial subjectivity damages, as Benjamin points out, not just the thousands or tens of thousands of specific targets—whether defined by “personality,” “signature,” or “collateral damage”—but millions of Palestinians, Syrians, Somalians, and others for whom the fabric of life and time is destroyed.”
Jonathan Beller (The Message is Murder)

“The so-called muse in artist couples is in fact compatible with the technical aspects of production: I call her the mediatic woman. Author husbands marry typists, writers for the stage marry actresses and singers, painters pick models, filmmakers marry film editors. (Alfred Hitchcock married the editor he thought the most accomplished in England.) Plugged into technical media, these women complete the production line, indeed make it possible. But they occupy this position as sacrifices, because their role uses them up. After two or three years, say, when the man changes the direction of his production, another candidate for the role makes the short list. Then they become expendable in their production value, and commit suicide, or are replaced by new typists, actresses, and so on.”
Klaus Theweleit (interview with Laurence Rikels, ArtForum)

The seasonal Zionist is replicated by packaged tours to Africa, or the Caribbean. There is a structural similarity between tourists with their digital cameras around their neck, and the seasonal Zionist settler with his Uzi around his neck. The same lanyard holds both. That motorcade, if you squint a little, becomes the giant Princess Line cruise ship docking in Port au Prince. Or in Oslo, or in Alaska. Or the tourist bus following ‘the map to star’s homes’.

Walala Tjapaltjarri

“Thus alongside the regular games or risk management, we have war games, war porn, food porn, fashion porn, news porn, reality porn, and regular porn. In fact, this is the regular fare, a sick tableau of degraded crap, and it is all part of the attention economy, where everything we look at is emptied of essence and stuffed with psychotic emphasis in an effort to help everyone keep reality at bay in the half-light of the digital imaginary that is simulation.”
Jonathan Beller (Ibid)

This emptying of meaning from nearly all of daily life may be the most significant experience of the 21st century. The emptying takes several forms, though, I think. Beller is right that there is a psychotic coercive quality to much of the ‘data’ or information one is given. The transference of labor to the consumer means endless amounts of time spent navigating the (intentionally, i think) badly designed web pages or automated phone answering systems. And there is simply the almost offhanded coercion of all marketing. And nearly all of life is marketing now. Politics is marketed, certainly. War is marketing for those not directly involved in the war. War is sold. War is purchased, passively or actively. But the point is that life is diminished through this inexorable emptying. And the perhaps surprising Walter Benjamin quote at the top of the page enters our discussion at this point. Adorno said arguing aesthetics is crucial in all things (I paraphrase). He meant arguing in even small matters. That having taste, that evaluating aesthetically was a matter of importance. It was moral. And this seems to me critically important in fact. The Ekardt book is interesting, and I will touch on one note here; and that has to do with Helen Grund, who accompanied Benjamin to fashion shows. Grund was quoted by Benjamin later in the Arcades Project.

Sam Dolbear has an insightful review of the Ekardt book. And it touches on something important if we think of incels or Ben-Gvir and mass shooters.

“For Ekardt, elegance is tied up with the rejection of the androgynous looks of the 1920s,in favour of gender- dimorphous silhouettes of the 1930s. At this point, historiography becomes important. The classicism of the 1930s look–lower hems, higher waists and more typically gendered silhouettes–points to a counter-revolutionary turn in which the imperial is tor neo-classicist tendencies of the 1930s were dressed in the garb of the imperialist past. Ekart shows us stark silhouettes of models,shot by the likes of Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene or Cecil Beaton, who appear as if petried in Munich’s ‘Glyptothek’, as if to prefigure Leni Riefenstahl’s opening of Olympia (1938). Here the famous trope of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852) remains true in its reversal: counter-revolutions as much as revolutions find their expression in the garments of the past.{ } The bride who closes the fashion show,now appears wedded, not to a groom, but to a deadened and transformed nature. Fashion here entices sexuality to recognise its relation to the inorganic world: to sequins, shells and whale bone. Such obscure references in Benjamin’s work, particularly in convolute B of the Arcades Project and their historical underpinning in Ekardt’s work. Ekardt takes the argument further, to the point where fashion does not reflect sexuality but substitutes it. The claim is that fashion exists because there
isn’t enough sex, whether out of the necessity of repression or, perhaps, as Brecht has it elsewhere, because ‘the bourgeoisie has contrived to ruin even sexuality’ to the point where it will die out.”

Sam Dolbear (Review of Philipp Ekardt, Benjamin on Fashion (2020))

Veronika Voss (1982. Dr. Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

Chalk one up for Brecht. But I do slightly disagree with Dolbear here. The fashion changes of the 30s can hardly be seen as counter revolutionary. The less gendered 20s styles were recuperated in what I read as the ironic classicism of the 30s. Yes, many designers were hugely reactionary (Cecil Beaton was a fawning lover of all things Tory and colonial, and would, of course, drift toward the sincere photography of same). The road that led to Coco Chanel was dialectic. But the real point is that an idea of ‘elegance’ existed. It was debated, in practice, and helped, in fact, question the status quo. The loss of taste matters when returning to the topic of this new grotesque, and aggressively unattractive presentation of self in the Israeli far right or in many of the billionaire class in fact. Ive written before about Bill Gates and his wardrobe choices. Taste and elegance are viewed with suspicion today, but particularly by the ruling class. The very richest mansions, designed by architects of fame, are emptied of expensive furniture, with maybe one noted painting, but with very expensive industrial ‘practical’ kitchen appliances. The ruling class performing as pragmatic. The ruling class pantomime the kitchen staff, without having to be the kitchen staff. Houses emptied of meaning.

Back in 2014 I wrote this (The Color of Nature)

“The gallery white, the Richard Meier white, is the transformation of the colors of luxury in the 19th century. The industrial colors of confinement are no longer white, they are beige or pale green. The pastels of condescension. Municipal pale green is the equivalent to that smiling insurance salesman explaining why your Mother’s death isn’t actually covered. The aesthetics of elitism have been preserved in an unnatural white, a glossy hermetically sealed white. There are questions of associations with death. The funereal greys of the shroud and of ash. It may be that the role of color changed with Hiroshima. But I think it is impossible to tweeze apart these things separate from the spaces in which they occur. It strikes me that spaces of intimacy have been largely removed in the 21st century. When Bachelard wrote of drawers and chests, and closets, the places where people kept, metaphorically, their secrets, he was suggesting an inner topography. Image and metaphor are not the same. What role electronic media has played in the erosion of intimacy is a huge topic, but for the purposes of this post its possible to at least begin with the idea of surveillance. How a society houses itself, both as shelter and monument, both private and public, is cause and effect of ideology and psychic make-up. Today the *starchitect* is building giant buildings that, finally, are about killing off the daydreams and allegory of constructed space. Bachelard wrote; “ is because our memories of former dwelling places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.” The individual home, the family home, is the place in which most of us grow-up. It is the site of our first integrating of thought and fantasy. It is the site, an originary site, for memories.”

A friend sent me an interesting review of a new book on Fassbinder, from the London Review of Books. The review by Owen Hatherley, of a book on Fassbinder by Ian Penman. Hatherley is a mixed bag, to be generous, but this is a sharp piece and while I disagree with many of his and Penman’s takes on Fassbinder…like for example Year of 13 Moons or Berlin Alexanderplatz…the tone and assumed importance of culture seems supportable.

poster for Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922. Dr. Fritz Lang)

There is a paywall. The relentless vision of Fassbinder feels necessary today. Fassbinder would make a movie about Gaza. He would make three or four probably. And he was not, in the conventional sense, political. Except of course he was political. I saw recently that one of the Ramones, I forget which, refused to perform if a Palestinian flag was not removed from stage. Which reminded me of my time in the NY in the 70s. That I clocked the core reactionary souls of Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine et al. All suburban white kids. And interestingly Penman has a New Yorker piece on another of my least favourite artists Lou Reed. He actually speaks of the night at Max’s Kansas City where Velvet Underground recorded their live album. I was there, although for only a few minutes. I think I had more nefarious things to do. My memory of Lou is summed up in this paragraph from the Penman article:

“He is revered and honored in Europe; he hangs out with an adoring Václav Havel in Prague; he and Anderson play host at their local bistro to Nicolas Sarkozy “and the chanteuse Carla Bruni.” After dinner, they all go on to a wild night of jazz with Woody Allen at Café Carlyle.”
Ian Penman (The Stubborn Mysteries of Lou Reed)

The numbing barbarism coming from Israel, and from the US, from Syria to Ukraine to Gaza and Yemen can only be accessed, really, through our Id. Barbarism mirrored psychically in the cultural production of Empire today. And this is what drove Freud and his circle, in Vienna. Nearly all of whom were Jews. Walter Benjamin committed suicide rather than be captured by the Nazis. The American fantasy welcomed those Nazis with open arms. Most of the British aristocracy adored Hitler. It was so disappointing things didn’t work out for him. Same for Ian Smith. Forgetting the foundational sickness of the American character is a persistent mistake for many. Adorno said, I forget where (Aesthetic Theory?) .. “It is not only possible to argue about taste, it is essential to do so.” Freud and that early group shared a common vision of the vast potential darkness in humans. They anticipated, without consciously realizing it (or not totally) the coming apocalypse.

Many on the left see questions of taste as trivial. And this accounts, largely, for their bad taste. And this lack of aesthetic education serves as an impediment to political maturity. Knowing quality matters. The role of automation has further eroded traditions of taste. The loss of community, of unions, of trade and craftsmanship has meant the working class simply shops for whatever meaning can be found — their jobs increasingly are service sector work. You learn nothing working behind the counter of McDonalds. You do learn things working on construction sites. You learn things on farms. The ascension of corporations was another step down the road to total philistinism. The corporation castrates everyone, at every encounter. (even women). At a certain point I think people have to recognize that automation, and AI, do not in any way improve life. Technology is not to make life more meaningful. Technology is largely a key ingredient in the emptying of meaning from that life. Technology develops out of racialist and class dynamics. And, it increasingly seems possible that mental disorders (sic) are problems both caused by and affected by technology. And then, by extension, scientistic logic, and technological reason function in some antagonistic manner with taste and aesthetics, and that these antagonisms produce the unbearable anxiety seen in western culture today.

“Bateson’s conclusion was that the pathological form of schizophrenia was an inability to comprehend the structure of the communicating situation. Schizophrenics receive signals but cannot respond in a purposeful way (i.e., with a deferred known goal) because they have no other, different, communicative situations to compare, contrast, or use outside of the immediate message.”
Orit Halpern (Beautiful Data)

Any discussion of Zionism, or colonialism, or of suicide and mass violence of any kind, is going to run up against what Halpern calls the communicating situation. Wittgenstein’s language games comes to mind here, too, as well as AI and today the entire Chatbox topic. Just the idea of a software application meant to imitate the human voice is, by itself, uncanny and disturbing. Increasingly the public is exposed to videos from news organizations, or independent journalists, or from politicians, that feel surreal, or just unreal. They defy belief. One may know they are real (to the degree one ever can) and still not experience that realness. This new generation will grow up with no memory of ‘the real’. What sort of society would *want* or desire something like a Chatbox?

Cecil Beaton, photography. ( Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey, Govt. House, Calcutta, WW2)

All of these themes have relations with each other. And one of the key psychoanalytic ideas I would link to incels, mass shooters, and Zionist fanatics is castration.

“Certainly, the results of our investigations so far suggest that the “ego,” in the Freudian sense of a mediator “between the world and the id” exists only in a very fragmented form, or, indeed, hardly at all, in soldier males. There is some question whether it has ever really been formed in them at all.”
Klaus Theweleit (Male Fantasies, Vol.1)

But it doesn’t exist at all, fully, anywhere. At least not in the sense usually understood.

“The ego grows by a dispossession of the child’s own inner world. The mechanisms of defense are, after all, par excellence techniques of self-deception. this is the fateful paradox that we call neurosis: the child is given into humanization by giving over the aegis over himself. The whole of psychoanalytic theory, and the genius of Freud’s formulation, is summed up in one sentence, in one thought: As Freud put it, it is the thought. “of the child when he becomes humanized and social, and says: “You no longer have to punish me, Father; I will punish myself now.” In other words, “You can approve of me as you see how well I do as you would wish me to.” Or, more fatefully, in words the child would not admit to himself: “I am a social person because I am no longer mine; because I am yours.” The terrible conclusion that we draw from Freud’s work is that the humanization process itself is the neurosis: the limitation of experience, the fragmentation of perception, the dispossession of genuine internal control.”
Ernest Becker (The Birth and Death of Meaning)

Remember it is the father who threatens the son with castration for the son’s desire to take the mother incestually (which is not a word, I realize, but it should be). The son, however, also identifies with the father and so transfers the object of his desire from Mother to sister or friend of sister or woman who seems like Mom, etc. (or son of friend of sister etc….another whole paradigm worth discussing). This transferring of object-libido is a contested site, theoretically and in real life. But Theweleit sees the *soldier male* (due to several factors including the weak ego formation) sidestepping any completion of Oedipal drama. If we look at the IDF, the settler militia part of the IDF in particular, what is found is the castration terror of familial households a century earlier. For those like Ben-Gvir, the father cannot be identified with in any satisfying fashion, but the attempt will continue, repetitively, compulsively. This is a society that cannot abide the outside world, their children cannot develop in it, or mature in it. Everything is hated. The settlers character profile, even more than the typical Zionist, resembles the classic Freikorp and Nazi. The settler culture is self isolating and functions much like a cult.

“The first, i.e. the provocative acts of soiling the bed, can be understood as an ambivalent mix of creative playfulness and aggressive, controlling and manipulative tendencies that feed into notions of moulding and controlling one’s environment and relationships. The second position, i.e. the loss of control over defecation, is more directly linked with castration anxieties and painful feelings of powerlessness, tied to ideas of being effeminate in a social context in which a traditional, strong masculinity dominate.”
Steffen Krüger (Ibid)

“Taste has been replaced, in the sphere of mass art by mere familiarity, and in the sphere of avant-garde art by the cognitive recuperation of form.”
Theodor Adorno (Fetish Character of Music)

Ludwig Deutsch (1901)

Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, or Benny Gantz or even Netanyahu are terrified of being seen as effeminate. The entire Zionist *hasbara* is meant to shock. There is a misogyny at work in this artificial feeling abusive tone. This is relatively new. The IDF supplies countless TikTok accounts, all of which create content meant to shock and offend. Adorno said those artists who attempt to shock through conscious tastelessness are led by taste itself to reject aestheticism, which is just the vulgar apotheosis of taste itself. This is from David Kaufmann’s monograph on Adorno and taste (Matters of Taste).

“Taste signals the subjective rejection of outmoded convention.”
David Kaufmann (Ibid)

Adorno noted that the greatest composers of modern music (Webern, Berg, etc) were the ones most steeped in the history of convention in composition. And their innovations were, in Kaufmann’s words, determinate negations. Those younger composers not so steeped in history then produce innovations that are false positives, as it were. One could apply this in film to Fassbinder, whose middle period owed so much to Sirk (Veronika Voss was the crowning achievement of that period). And that today, you have the false positives of David Lynch, and Christopher Nolan, and the Cohn brothers. Directors who probably believe they are students of film history, and perhaps are to some degree, but are certainly not students of aesthetics. I remember Godard hating the Cohn Brothers movies rather intensely. Martin Scorsese is the most contradictory or incomprehensible of filmmakers. A genuinely scholarly and perceptive student of film, and one with extraordinary taste, he still cranks out one bad film after another. At some point I think someone somewhere will crack the code of Scorsese, but it won’t be me.

This all matters because there is a violence at the heart of a subjectivity that produces work that finally falls mute. As Adorno notes, it becomes mere ideology. The Cohn brothers appalling film version of Othello has at least the virtue of achieving a new kind of bad. It is uninterpretable. It is opaque.

“Adorno argues in the fetish-character essay that taste has become outmoded in the age of universal exchange relations because of the concomitant weakness of the ego. There is no subject strong enough to be able to test the validity of conventions and to reject them when they are found wanting. Taste-as impulse-has been replaced by the pseudo-pleasures of familiarity or the intellectual activity of bewusste Erkenntnis, conscious awareness.”
David Kaufmann (Ibid)

Wall in West Bank

And this brings us back full circle (sort of) to Freud and incels, to Theweleit, and the Freikorp. And the Tiktok Zionists soldiers. The Ukrainian army is calling up teenagers now. Much like the Hitler Youth did in the last years of WW2. The tiktok IDF content creators echoes the Hitlerjugend, too. Mocking dead Palestinian babies while making fun of Palestinian mothers alleged bad teeth really is a new bottom. The allegory of the primal horde contains multiple registers, lets remember.

“ At one time in the life of the genus man, life was organized by domination. And the man who succeeded in dominating the others was the father — that is to say, the man who possessed the desired women and who had, with them, produced and kept alive the sons and daughters. The father monopolized for himself the woman (the supreme pleasure) and subjugated the other members of the horde to his power. Did he succeed in establishing his dominion because he succeeded in excluding them from supreme pleasure? In any case, for the group as a whole, the monopolization of pleasure meant an unequal distribution of pain:…”
Herbert Marcuse (Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud)

The idea of monopoly is seen again in Marx, in another context (partly). The state has a monopoly on violence. Officially. There is a distinct quality of the Freikorp that Theweleit analysed in mass murderer Anders Breivik. His deep lacerating misogyny and his scapegoating of communism (and Islam).

“Islamophobia is the principal means of European aggressive identification, and as Islamophobia spreads, it symmetrically reinforces Islamic fundamentalism. In his European Declaration of Independence, Breivik declares, in perfect accord with the spectrum of identitarian forces which are growing in Europe – from Pim Fortuyn’s party in the Netherlands to the Italian Northern League; the Hungarian Jobbik (or Movement for a Better Hungary) to the Finns Party (previously known as the True Finns) – that immigration threatens to submerge Europe in an Islamic tidal wave, and that Islam is the ideology of evil.{ } Although he subscribes to some of the ideas of contemporary neo-Nazis, Breivik abhors Hitler and the German Nazis because they failed to realize an ethnic, cultural and political alliance between Jews and Europeans, who share the same enemy: Islam, and – inevitably – Communism, the absolute evil.”
Franco “Bifo” Berardi (Heroes)

Maria Fargosa Jara

A final note on Breivik;

“I do not think that extended exposure of the brain to simulated stimulation like the video games automatically induces a mutation of mental activity. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to imagine that if the conscious experience of a person is primarily developed in the virtual world, then something significant will also happen in this person’s psychological and cognitive sphere. In this case, it is worth reiterating that Breivik was diagnosed with a form of alexithymia since he was very young. Alexithymia is an inability to recognize one’s own feelings and emotions, a sort of un-empathy which involves not only the emotional perception of others but also emotional self-perception. ”
Franco “Bifo” Berardi (Ibid)

Berardi’s book is useful just now because the chapter after the one devoted to Breivik is devoted to Baruch Goldstein, the fanatical Zionist settler who murdered twenty six Palestinians at a muslim holy site in 1994. From Breivik to Goldstein is just a tiny step. Goldstein is today revered by the party of Itamar Ben Gvir. It was a settler, too, who would assassinate Yitzhak Rabin only a few years later. The story of this fanatical ultra nationalist party is the subject of the David Sheen lecture linked above, so I needn’t go into that here. When discussing any of the dozens of mass shooters over the last forty years, the topic of race will be foremost, in one context or another. Muslims constitute the global ‘other’ today for white western society. And even with the fall of the USSR, the ‘communist’ threat has barely receded in the imagination of the colonial West. Nothing has substantially changed since the mid 18th century. Those tourists from the developed West, cameras in hand, are in search of ‘human zoos’. And in a sense, they find them. There is a danger in this phenomenon, which is that such a recognition can serve as justification for state limits on personal movement. Although clearly the ruling class and its managers will travel, and the rest of the proletarian class will find work as part of a new post modern ‘human zoo’. This is under filed the climate discourse, and part of the Great Reset. (And none of that the destructive madness of the Covid protocols has gone away. )

“Binding young people with the chain of debt is a way to oblige them to accept exploitation, and to destroy in advance their ability to organize and revolt against capital violence. { } Suicide is already the first cause of death among young people, and this cannot be explained in terms of morality, family values or similar hypocritical rhetoric. To understand the contemporary form of this ethical shipwreck, we need to reflect on the transformations of activity and labour, the subsumption of mental time to the competitive realm of productivity; we must understand the psycho-mutation, and the effects of financial nihilism on the sensibility of young people. { } Contemporary suicide has little to do with the phenomenon studied by Emile Durkheim on the eve of the twentieth century, and very little to do with romantic suicide in the nineteenth. Durkheim spoke of anomic suicide, referring to the moral confusion caused by the perception of being unable to fit in within the social frame. In the contemporary precarious society, anomie is a totally normalized condition.”
Franco “Bifo” Berardi (Ibid)

Rosalind Fox Solomon, photography.

“Within the total mobilization of man and nature which marks the period, science is one of the most destructive instruments — destructive of that freedom from fear which it once promised. As this promise evaporated into utopia, “scientific” becomes almost identical with denouncing the notion of an earthly paradise. The scientific attitude has long since ceased to be the militant antagonist of religion, which has equally effectively discarded its explosive elements and often accustomed man to a good conscience in the face of suffering and guilt. In the household of culture, the functions of science and religion tend to become complementary; through their present usage, they both deny the hopes which they once aroused and teach men to appreciate the facts in a world of alienation.”
Herbert Marcuse (Ibid)

And the motorcade drives on….

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