What It Is to Say Anything at All

Takashi Arai, photography (Daguerreotype, Yokohama 2011)

“…technology places a frame around everything; it artificially limits what sort of world of meaning we can access. It guarantees inaccessibility. The information we have isn’t the information we want; the information we want isn’t the information we need; and the information we need is impossible to get.”
Duncan Reyburn (The question concerning AI, Eucatastrophologist, Substack)

“If, for example, an AI passes a theory of mind test in such a way as to suggest that the AI can understand people’s mental states, it is more likely that the test is not testing what the test designers think it is testing than that the AI has a theory of mind. An implicit agreement with the technological frame is likely to make this fact more difficult to notice.”
Duncan Reyburn (Ibid)

“The real problems with democratic life today stem from the fact that technological innovations exploited by financial capitalism have replaced yesterday’s myths in the definition of happiness for all, and are promoting an ideology of the present, an ideology of the future now, which in turn paralyses all thought about the future.
So what is proposed here. ”

Marc Augé (The Future)

Now, it is worth examining some of the problems, again, with AI. And at this point its almost not AI itself that is most troubling. Artificial Intelligence, as pure theory, seems to have stalled about forty years ago. Its more the question of its use, first, but also the entire question of technology. And I admit I am loathe to write another entire post about AI as there are four or five on this blog already.

Firstly, there is the politically reactionary tone of much of the writing on AI. There are a number of writers on Substack, and Medium, etc, and all of them I am pretty sure are a generation (or 2) younger than me. None of them are Marxists. Most are anti communist and many write of Heidegger but without mention of his politics. I am not sure how one can do that, but they do. There is a trend, perhaps best exemplified by Peter Sloterdijk, to dismiss the communist left. The other trend is to confuse left and liberal. And then there are non communist leftists who blame it all on post structuralism. And then (and more on this below) a general acceptance of western revisionism about the USSR and Maoist China.

My sense, and this is just intuitive and I could well be wrong, is that something commendably anti establishment to nearly all of these guys, but at the same time there is something, if you scratch deeply at all, politically immature in their work.

Miss Atomic Bomb, 1957 (Lee Merlin, photography by Don English)

I quoted Reyburn at the top, who has an excellent blog, notwithstanding the reactionary aspects of it. I mean I must have missed this Ernst Junger renaissance, because suddenly his name is appearing all over the place. Maybe its the second wave of Heidegger enthusiasts that have dragged him along as wing man. It is worth noting that Benjamin and Adorno, as well as Thomas Mann regarded Junger as insufferable. Adorno remarked his work was ‘kitsch, through and through’.

“The collected edition of Jünger’s interwar theorizing runs to nearly one thousand pages, and gives the impression less of an engaged political writer with a taste for dandyism than a dandy with a taste for politics. Jünger’s early polemics were blinkered celebrations of the cult of the eternal soldier. In direct response, Benjamin took aim at Jünger for failing to see that he and his jingoistic comrades were nothing more than “war-engineers” in the service of the country’s capitalist class. But unlike most of his right-wing peers, Jünger made a point of learning from the avant-garde of Berlin. He met György Lukács and Joseph Roth, and sparred late into the night with the likes of Brecht. He, too, was mesmerized by the power of the Russian Revolution and believed that something similar would come to Germany. But in Jünger’s vision—outlined in his 1932 treatise, The Worker—Germany’s soldiers and workers would join into a single mass of supermen to stave off the coming empire of commercial society. For Jünger, militarism was the alternative to both capitalism and communism: it was not merely about training troops or building up stockpiles of weapons, but about schooling a society in how to consume violence instead of the cheap thrills of the market. Creative destruction was too important to be left to entrepreneurs. Jünger called for a new German aristocracy suited to the times: one composed not of business barons or landed Junkers, but technological adepts.”
Thomas Meaney (History’s Fool, Harpers)

Meaney (himself another very smart anticommunist) notes that Junger found favour with the young German left of 68. His writings on the natural world seemed to hit the correct note of indifference to the state, and indifference to the radical left, with just the right amount of Nature-as-mystical. And this seems to fit with the slightly new-age *pro Nature* stance of the new writers on Heidegger. Now this discussion is taking us away from AI, and I want to return to that. But it is not just serendipity that critics of tech are also uncritical admirers of Jünger. For baked into this instinctively accurate distrust of big tech seems to be a kitsch nature philosophy. And hidden or masked in this new greenish Nature philosophy is a ruthless fascist sensibility. The uncritical embrace of not just Heidegger, but Jünger, too, is actually pretty remarkable. Jünger once noted ‘I hate democracy as I do the plague’. And this is a guy who traded cordial postcards with Hitler.

Faris Heizer

Le Monde, in a review of the Heidegger/Junger correspondence, observes:

“As for the long story that, on December 28, 1949, Adorno gave to Mann on the political and moral situation of the rediscovered Germany, it remains a model of intellectual reporting: “I have not yet seen any Nazis,” he confided. he, – I don’t say it in the ironic sense in which no one admits to having been, but in the much stranger sense that they believe not to have been.” { } Reading the Jünger-Heidegger exchange, we have the feeling of finding ourselves in the camp of the vanquished who brood over their defeat, hating a modernity fatally given over to “technology” technology. We feel that the “technique” that they hope for would have some traits of good old German nationalism.”
Nicolas Weill (Le Monde, 2010)

The current far right in Europe is both a continuation of Nazi-like sentiments, and a trivializing of them. They are cartoon pseudo fascists.They seem, also, to have a penchant for re-fried blondes, from Alice Weidel to Giorgia Meloni, and square jawed vaguely Aryan men, from Tommy Robinson to Tino Chrupalla, to those who sort of want-to-be square jawed like Jimmie Åkesson. There are also throwback open Nazis like Marian Kotleba in Slovakia. And throwback monarchists like Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox Party in Spain. And there are the new innocuous wonks like Tom Van Grieken (Flemish Vlamms Belang party) and Marco Chiesa of the Swiss People’s Party. And there are more. They have traction but less than I think people feared. After all the ruling liberal parties are doing a bang up job of duplicating fascist policy already. Cutting across the entire liberal imagination is a two pronged belief system. One side is a deep abiding love of the idea of progress. And the other side is the complementary idea of a deep belief in technology. And these days that means A.I. In 1955 I suspect technology meant automatic coffee makers and ice cube makers. It also meant the military. And from WW2 onwards the idea of progress has been merged with militarism. Today tech means AI.

There is an interesting paragraph in Detlev Claussen’s biography of Adorno:

“Paradoxically, summing up the course of his life to that point in 1956, Adorno mentions his road toward politicization. He had arrived at Lenin, he claimed, via music. Using one of his key ideas, the idea that all knowledge is socially mediated, Adorno once
again confirmed the importance of Lenin: “Marx was too harmless; he probably imagined quite naïvely that human beings are basically the same in all essentials and will remain so. It would be a good idea, therefore, to deprive them of their second nature. He was not concerned with their subjectivity; he probably didn’t look into that too closely. The idea that human beings are the products of society down to their innermost core is an idea that he would have rejected as a milieu theory. Lenin was the first person to assert this.” In reality it was only Lenin’s contemporary Freud who noticed people’s subjectivity. Horkheimer and Adorno’s original idea of writing something jointly, the original seed of Dialectic of Enlightenment, was concerned with a critique of the individual. It was the attitude toward psychoanalysis that revealed the split in the material which produced critical theory, on the one hand, and revisionist psychoanalysis, as pioneered by Erich Fromm, on the other. “

Detlev Claussen (One Last Genius)

George Grosz, 1926

So, today you have those attacks on Adorno by all manner of leftist. And often by the most inflexible of the ascetic left, those who see everything as bourgeois — while themselves belong staunchly to the bourgeois class. A terror of pleasure. Wilhelm Reich was right about these types. It is a strangely dysfunctional ideological swamp out there.

“According to Marx, the fundamental cause of alienation under capitalist production lies in the specific modern relation of the producers to their objective conditions of production. After the historical dissolution of the original unity between humans and the earth, the producers can only relate to the conditions of production as an alien property.”
Kohei Saito (Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism)

One of the first issues to discuss is, I suppose, what one means by *nature*. Because from one perspective, everything is nature, including atom bombs, iPads and cigarettes. Pesticides are natural, because they exist. This sort of question is not at all specious. And I have always had this uncomfortable feeling when the term *Nature* is used. There lurks a kind of Sierra Club image, I think, in the back of people’s brains when *nature* is mentioned. There has been a deep conditioning, starting, probably, with the Romantics, that sees forests and wooded glens and high mist shrouded peaks as *nature*. I doubt people think of sulphur ponds or spring bogs of mud and peat. Maybe they do, but I’d bet few think of decaying ruins of bombed cities, or abandoned sanitariums, say. There is this kitsch quality to the word no matter who is using it.

“The more the worker spends himself, the more powerful the alien world of objects which he creates over and against himself, the poorer he himself—his inner world—becomes, the less belongs to him as his own. It is the same in religion. The more man puts into God, the less he retains in himself. The worker puts his life into the object; but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object. Hence, the greater this activity, the more the worker lacks objects.”
Karl Marx (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts)

Anna E. Davies

Now, I wont belabour this point, but it is worth keeping in mind. Reyburn’s quote (at top) on AI and measuring consciousness in some fashion is quite brilliant. Its a bit like the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope, and its not a telescope as I have noted before, nor are the pictures sent back to earth actually photographs in any conventional sense, is a computer in space. The instruments are of necessity going to record what the scientists predicted, more or less, would be out there. And that is because computer technology is created by humans. And these humans have certain ‘frames’ in mind (to borrow from Reyburn) — its what they have learnt. AI can only bounce back some version of what the coding anticipated. AI is largely an anticipatory enterprise.

But let me quote Reyburn again, from a different post of his. One that begins with calling Yuval Harari an imbecile. An opening that warmed me to the post and Reyburn.

“After all, contra Harari, I think reality is a story. Anyway, the demon I want to name, discuss, and combat here is not reductionism but its sibling, demythologisation. Like reductionism, demythologisation is hermeneutical. It is an approach to interpreting the world in a certain way, according to a rather fixed and decidedly unselfconscious vantage point. It is associated with the theologian Rudolf Bultmann but there have been many who have adopted this approach before him. One famous example of demythologising is found in Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise (1677). Spinoza insists that any event recorded in the scriptures must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with natural laws. If a miracle is recorded, it must not mean that a miracle took place, he says, but that something symbolic, allegorical, rhetorical, or metaphorical is meant. Perhaps the writer simply wanted to inspire devotion in his readers by impressing them with impossibilities.”
Duncan Reyburn (The Hidden Against the Manifest)

It is perhaps encouraging that Reyburn, like Byung-Chul Han, and others, has emphasized the importance of narrative. Of storytelling. I have said before that everything today is allegory. Of course on one level it is easy to critique social media. (a review of Han’s recent book The Crisis of Narration, at the Guardian by Stuart Jeffries, includes this: “Consider how Instagram offers tutorials in how to tailor narratives to meet demand and acquire that fool’s gold, influencer status. “Where you go, what you eat and drink, who you see, and what’s most memorable,” suggests one online course. “These are the typical fodder of Instagram Stories – seconds-long glimpses of people’s lives, shared on Instagram for only 24 hours.”). And such critiques tend to be simplistic. Of course Instagram is in the business of manufacturing unthinking proles who salivate on cue. The larger issue, or the deeper issue, is tracing the ideological influences that created these social media platforms in the first place. Instagram is what Capitalism provides as leisure time activity. And that today such platforms are used by the IDF to mock suffering Palestinians and/or dead Palestinians is unsurprising. Death porn is the logical conclusion to social media.

And here again, I must again note that Marx would be very useful.

Persi Darukhanawal

“To sum up, Marx’s analysis of estranged labor delineates the modern unfree reality where one cannot execute labor as an end in itself but rather labor functions as a process of loss of reality, impoverishment, dehumanization, and atomization. Marx argues that the only way to overcome this alienated reality is to transcend the system of private property so that humans can relate to nature through labor in a thoroughly conscious, free, universal cooperative manner and acquire self-affirmation with the totality of the external world with their own objectified products.”
Kohei Saito (Ibid)

Marx saw the drive to control nature, non human nature, results in in a kind of ‘second nature’. The social-human range of relationships becomes a deeper source of threat.

“ As we saw, ‘second nature’—human society—threatens humankind just as ‘first nature’ does, and also, in turn, changes how ‘first nature’ is understood. This reversal is part of Adorno’s wider questioning of metaphysics, which is summed up by his contention: ‘That the unchanging is truth, and the mobile, transient mere appearance, the indifference of temporal and eternal ideas to each other, can no longer be asserted’ . The modern world involves what Max Weber terms ‘disenchantment’, which ensues from the successes of modern science: ‘one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted’ (‘Science as Vocation’). Instead of the essentially theological idea that meaning is objectively imbued in things, meaning now becomes something which is continually in question, and gains a fundamentally historical aspect.”
Andrew Bowie (Adorno, An Introduction)

This conceit that ‘man’ can master and explain all things by calculation is a product of the mythology of progress. Man cannot do that. In fact he is not remotely close to doing that. But one sees in the salesmen of AI a constant stream of these declarations. Harari is, of course, an idiot, but there are more serious versions of him out there and their number seems to be growing. But disenchantment is very close to Reyburn’s description of demythologisation.

“But the idea of ‘nature’ needs an ‘other’ to contrast with, if it is to have any determinate content. The metaphysical idea that ‘the unchanging is truth’ can apply to some conceptions of ‘nature’, of the kind which underpin the modern natural sciences. These investigate nature as a system of unchanging laws, as opposed to the changing world of history. Kant speaks in this respect of the ‘formal’ sense of nature as a ‘totality of rules’, and as ‘the lawfulness of appearances in space and time’. This raises the question of how we, as parts of physical nature, can be free and not just determined by that nature, and this makes us the ‘other’ to nature in some sense.”
Andrew Bowie (Ibid)

Sandra Eleta, photography (‘Cura del mal de Ojo’ 1970)

Adorno was acutely aware of the problems of ‘definitions’. And this becomes an aspect, too, of today’s scientism. We have no way to know if much of science is true or not. I believe the ICD implanted in my chest is helping keep me alive. But I have no way to really know at all. I must trust a system of health care (it is my good fortune to reside in Norway, as contemporary nations go a rather trustworthy one) and a history embedded in that system. That history and nature help define each other is a slippery idea(s). But it does solve some of the obvious solipsistic rhetoric of the new AI adherents. My trust is exactly a component of history as natural — and nature as historical. (go, ponder that grasshopper).

“Thought itself is often seen as what separates us from nature, but once again this is not as simple as it might seem. Basing itself on an objectifying assumption about what nature essentially is, of the kind Adorno rejects, reductionist neuroscience tries to show that thought should be incorporated into nature seen as a system of laws, which leads to ideas like the brain as a computer and questions about ‘artificial intelligence’. From Adorno’s perspective, in contrast, thought functions as objective nature when it becomes what can increase rather than alleviate human distress or blocks possibilities of social improvement. Some (but by no means all) versions of neuroscience have the potential to do this, precisely by trying to reduce what Wellmer terms our ‘living nature’ to being a technocratically manipulable, objective process. ”
Andrew Bowie (Ibid)

Richard Zinon

Computer modelling is now ubiquitous. The conceptual assumptions underlying computer modelling are rarely questioned. To do so would be to derail a near infinite number of projects on which computer models are crucial. Now this is not to say there is no legitimate role for modelling. Weather forecasting, as an example, has improved dramatically since the advent of computer modelling. Its still very often wrong of course, but hey. But it has also reached levels of absurdity. Medical aps, where one types in symptoms and gets *answers* is criminal in its neglect of patients, really. You need a doctor face to face to even begin to get reasonable answers to your health. But I have written a lot about how the Third Reich lives on, and how nazis were rehabilitated in the West. And that includes Germany. So perhaps the appeal of Jünger and Heidegger is not that hard to understand. Though Jünger is sort of the Germanic equivalent to Ayn Rand in a sense. Kitsch that appeals to the not best and brightest.

Worth noting Jünger lived to be 102. He didnt die until 1998. And he was the front piece for the 1993 Venice Biennale. Andreas Huyssen has a pretty coherent take on Jünger and his Gesaltwandel, a rehash of Titans and Gods, self conscious text on nature and something vaguely spiritual (as Huyssen’s notes, its not as overtly fascistic as earlier Jünger, like The Worker from 1932 or Total Mobilization from 1930). But it is still a weirdly anachronistic piece of Germanic romanticism, or as Huyssen’s calls it *metaphysical mush*. But that such rubbish was given center stage at the very well funded Venice Biennale is proof of the spiritual bankruptcy of the West I suppose. But also that the fascism of mid century lives on, and with Jünger, who never officially joined the Nazi party (as Heidegger did) so he was not ‘denazified’ — but certainly his work was sympathetic with fascism. But then Jünger was a devout opportunist. And chameleon. And there are highly flattering reviews of Jünger in the TLS, and from the 70s onward (when Jünger was awarded the Goethe Prize and lauded by Helmut Kohl and Mitterrand) there was been an amnesia about the political implications of his oeuvre.

There is a connection, so I maintain, between the fascist mythos of German/Aryan manufactured nostalgia and the current reductionist insistence of neuroscience and all things computational. Disenchantment leads directly to AI. And vice versa.

Werner Heisenberg, Ernst Junger, Martin Heidegger.

“This new nationalist vision of an emerging global culture was built around the metaphysically coded gestalt of the warrior-worker with the warrior’s body constructed as the ultimate armored lighting machine. Junger’s description of the blood of youth confronting deadly matter on the battlefield and the fantasy ot their interpenetration in “streams ot liquid metal” thus provides us with a genealogy of the T 1000 from Terminator II: the big white killer male, invincible and beyond organic death. Junger was thus not only ‘posthistoire’, but even and already then post-Schwarzenegger, whose role in the film is that of an all-too-human machine.”
Andreas Huyssen (Junger’s Armored Texts)

Apropos of Terminator….“the enemy, dehumanized, became invisible. He was close but hidden in his trench. “This war is a war of invisibility,” the art critic Camille Mauclair declared in 1918. “Hand-to- bhand fighting is a thing of the past,” Jean Norton Cru stressed, having analyzed the testimony of veterans. With “an enemy who remained invisible,” warfare became a terrible slaughter
carried out amid a “total absence of hatred.”Very often death was dealt, not by an enemy of flesh and blood, but by an impersonal, cold, alien machine.”

Enzo Traverso (Origins of Nazi Violence)

The enemy without a face, but only gas mask and goggles, helmet and weapon. As has been observed, this new enemy, mechanized, impersonal, and faceless, was to evolve into DC and Marvell superheroes.

“[The face] has become more metallic, its surface is galvanized, the bone structure is evident, and the traits are dear and tense. The gaze is steady and fixed, trained on objects moving at high velocities. It is the face of a race that has begun to develop in the peculiar demands of a new landscape, where one is represented neither as a person nor an individual but as a type.”
Ernst Junger (The Worker, 1932)

Now, one of the most indelible revisionist positions is anticommunism. It’s not that critiques of communism are wrong, because all critiques are useful, but it’s that even very good writers seem to have fallen prey to western institutional revisionism regards the USSR and Maoist China. Its almost uncanny. The problem is that there is a continuing practice of bad scholarship and factual error in nearly all western histories of the Soviet Union and Cuba, or China or Vietnam. The US and Europe embarked on a massive propaganda campaign to discredit socialism wherever it was found. The Dulles brothers all by themselves made sure Academia was completely complicit in manufacturing the (often subtle, often not) conflation of communism and fascism and in general promoting the term ‘totalitarian’. The west has devoted more energy to rewriting the history of socialism than it has to almost anything other than illegal covert ops against socialist countries. Massive energy and time devoted to discrediting socialism, and scholars and historians know this and yet they repeat the same distortions and lies over and over and over. Worth adding that the current Western state apologies for Zionism suggest something like the splash back from pissing on communism wherever it was found. That fanatical demand for discrediting Reds allowed for projects like Zionism, which everyone from Albert Einstein to Hannah Arendt warned against (in letters to FDR https://www.cadtm.org/When-Einstein-called-fascists-those-who-rule-Israel-for-the-last-44-years ).

Stephen Whatcott

The Zionist campaign of terror goes back well before 1948. Israel is the last remaining colonial nation (though Israel is not really an actual country, its more a garrison state with cosmetic religious attire) and there is something in the logic of western anti-communism, the privileging of a deformed version of science (alongside emerging markets for increased surveillance and tracking, and the already robust private security business) and redundant pointless AI projects that converges with the remnants of mid century fascism and the distraction industry of Silicon Valley that has triggered the open racism and incitements for genocide from Israeli public officials, and Rabbis. And really even from US entertainment celebrities and rock stars. I cannot ever remember this open spouting of the most repulsive racism and bigotry. Muslims in the eyes of Zionists and their American protectors are the new untermensch. It is as if all filters have been removed, along with the loss of all literacy and contracting social life. This convergence is what, in a sense anyway, encouraged my previous couple posts on psychoanalysis. Here is Adorno’s (and Marx’s) *second nature*, the disenchanted landscape, both exterior and, perhaps more importantly, interior. A second nature that has reverted, and regressed more accurately, to the primitive states of barbarism under cover of technology futurism.

Now, given the ascension of scientism (after positivism) it is unremarkable that the internet has followed the path it has followed. It is a machine for distraction, largely. And today, actual research is ever harder to do because search engines (Google Search for one, has deteriorated greatly since 2005 and it wasn’t that great then) now hide dissident voices and dissident source material. Censorship has increased across all platforms. But above all that there are now adults who are third generation raised in screen addicted homes. This is far less true in South America or Africa, but in the West and Asia the computer is a childhood companion. The smartphone is for sure a childhood companion. Social life for teenagers is utterly and completely mediated by smartphone platforms. And this current adult 3rd generation is proving to be remarkably immune to thinking. They are also somehow exhibiting a new form of autism. A generalized autism (which Debord even talked of 60 some years ago) that seems to paralyse their cognitive skills. Eroded social filters, reduced impulse control, and reduced education. Add that science (or scientism) is now, also, a sort of machine for paralysis. This is linked to the financialization of thought as well, that life is treated to a risk evaluation at every level. Thinking is replaced by risk management.

Jet Le Parti

But already many AI ventures are failing (driverless cars, er, autonomous vehicles) are a disaster. Things as prosaic as self check out are already being shut down (because of both theft and the fact they take up more time from employees than a single cashier would) and there are countless (actually very funny) examples of AI failures, often centered around facial recognition (racist) and robotic missteps. The real questions are about authority and obedience, about how a society evolved to the place where anyone wants a robot helper, or where criteria for AI is largely Q&A. Where certainty is assumed. False or Correct. A belief that if you get enough answers there is a solution waiting. And everyone has had frustrating experiences with telephone chatboxes (virtual assistants, rather). I can tell you personally hours of my life I will never get back have been spent trying to figure out the logic of this or that particular virtual assistant, or navigating the drop down boxes on bureaucratic web pages. And here capitalism enters, naturally. Contracts to the lowest bidder. Even the Apollo program was given to the lowest bidder. The reality is the ruling class know full well this crap doesn’t work. But then they don’t have to use it.And increasingly, like Zionists, the ruling class flaunts its contempt for the rest of us. But there is another aspect besides class contempt. And this is the perverse need to be hated. The Zionist has exhausted all antisemitic arguments, such as they were, and now have reached a state that presents as either trivial superficial Tiktok influencer, or as fanatic genocidal fascist. The influencers are fascist, too, but their presentation of self is couched in a kind of rich kid irony. Doing your nails in battle uniform for the women, and dancing over broken Palestinian toys in a bombed out Gaza toyshop for the men. There is a self awareness, enough of one anyway, to know this will offend the vast majority of humanity. But there is a certain power in that. It’s this asking to be hated coupled to feelings of deep insecurity and self loathing. The Zionists have been a terror organization for 75 years. They only exist at the largesse of the US empire who sees them as a military outpost. An attack dog for use on muslims. If deep down you know you are both a fraud and illegitimate, then you must compensate.

That IDF soldiers can post videos mocking dead Palestinian children is a testament to the Zionist ideology of supremacism.

“…in July 1939, Hitler called fifteen psychiatrists to the Reich Chancellery to discuss a program of systematic child killing. The Reich Ministry of the Interior issued a decree on August 18, 1939, that required physicians, nurses, and midwives to report infants and children under three years old whom they deemed to have mental and physical disabilities, including loosely defined diagnoses such as “idiocy” and “malformations of all kinds.” The children would enter one of the Reich’s thirty-seven “special children’s wards” for observation and, regularly, medical murder. To provide incentives for cooperation, doctors and nurses were paid for each child they reported and, at euthanasia centers, received what some called “dirty money”—salary bonuses and perks for children they killed. Initially limited to babies and toddlers, child killing would be a scientific and deliberative project, based on careful examinations and integrated into the Reich’s health care system. After medical personnel reported a child to be disabled, the child’s file would be reviewed by the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses in Berlin, a front organization of the Reich Chancellery. The committee’s three medical “experts” would then send authorization for killing the child[…]”
Edith Sheffer (Asperger’s Children)


Francesco Albani (Apollo and Daphne, oil on copper, 1610)

Nobody can mentally survive such states of depravity. And there is another segue here, from this convergence I note above, and this is one that goes directly to philosophy. Certainly Adorno and Marx are philosophers but we have not delved into their pure theory so much as their social/anthropological ideas. But these things overlap. The idea of asking questions of a machine is now commonplace. In fact its about the only way questions ARE asked anymore. The western public is utterly reliant on computer responses. High school students today cannot calculate in their heads the way my father’s generation could. Nor can they read cursive writing, or do it themselves. Its not just the ideological framing that the internet provides, it is the actual basic social skills and ways of interacting with others and forming relationships that are near totally mediated by the internet.

There would seem a clear difference between research done prior to the internet and that done today, post internet. And its not just a matter of speed. And in fact, the speed issue seems almost itself an ideological issue. For there are myriad assumptions behind the belief that faster is better, in all matters, but clearly in research. There is a question lurking here regards AI. Since many students now try to employ AI to help write term papers, there would seem a new chasm developing around the outlines of meaning. The internet provides answers to questions almost instantly. Increasingly it seems many do not care if these answers are correct. And here I feel a Wittgenstein moment coming on. Because one has to ask what *correct* means in this context, and what it means in other contexts. One is immediately taken back to definitions and how it would seem the idea of a *definition* is now more important than it was two hundred years ago. Or a hundred years ago. Or it is much less important except to specialists. The academic priest class possesses the key to deciphering definitions. Science is predicated, to a degree, on consistent definitions. But consistent only within a preordained context. My point is that as a general belief today, the populace of the West no longer cares if anything is consistent, and in fact may not even know what that means (sic). They accept this idea of ‘truthiness’. Accurate-ness. Consistent-ish.

Alexis Rockman

And one sees this is the current political theatre in the U.S. Keeping Trump off the ballot is seen as perfectly OK, even if illegal. And soon, if Democratic voters were told (as a thought experiment) that vote tallies were rigged, I suspect strongly they would find this perfectly OK, too. I doubt a majority would have felt that way a hundred years ago. That morality is viewed is fluid today accounts for much of the learned helplessness of the public. Many in the West (well, the white educated urban dwellers anyway) sense certain things are immoral or fundamentally wrong, but feel uncertain if they have evaluated or experienced these things correctly. They do not trust their own feelings. They do not trust their own thoughts. They also, because of screen mediation and social media, fear heterogenous positions on anything. These convergences lead through various routes to the bourgeois lynch mobs of today. This is partly the source of the deep crippling anxiety so many experience. I suspect it is also a source of cancel culture.

“Modern ethics thus emerged as the internalization of exchange relations that became spiritualized through the power of opposition to, and in alliance with, the same relations external to itself. Yet this inner calculus is decreasingly relevant and to get at why this is the case, and present it in a way that is more illuminating than the banal reasons generally familiar, is difficult not least of all because there is no part of this event that is not genuinely banal. The topic here is in fact the powers of the banal.”
Robert Hullot-Kento (Things Beyond Resemblance)

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  1. G G Preparata had a peculiar fixation with Jünger. Indeed it was Preparata that introduced me to this figure and although GGP waxed his usual rhetorically explosive prose over Jünger, and flexed his invective, there was a curious ambivalence about it all. There is little doubt that GGP’s ultimate rancour is with Marxists where his venom recalls the uncomprehending superficiality of Ayn Rand. By comparison, his Jünger portrait, for all its dark insinuation – indeed perhaps even precisely through that dark insinuation – veers towards an awestruck tribute.

    Walter Benjamin’s brilliant dissection of Jünger in “Theories of German Fascism” is of a totally different order. And Benjamin’s final riposte regarding Jünger’s “sinister runic nonsense” could easily apply to GGP’s covert attraction towards “that rising black tide of occultism” as described by Freud, appropriately enough in an exchange with Jung who himself leaned towards Aryan mythologizing.

  2. An excellent essay, per usual. It seems that the embrace of truth-ish and accurate-ish information is a consequence of the volume of information on tap. Just like relativism justified amorality last century, information overload justifies abdication of responsibility for distilling truth from falsehood. Or so it seems to me.

  3. John Steppling says:

    i think this is absolutely correct.

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