Hibernating Fascism

Jim Shaw

“Late-comers and newcomers have an alarming affinity to positivism… ”
Theodor Adorno (Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life )

“Fascism will despite everything get away with its victory scot-free, and, having once been shown so easy, will be continued elsewhere. The logic of history is as destructive as the people that it brings to prominence: wherever its momentum carries it, it reproduces equivalents of past calamity. Normality is death.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

“But { Walter} Benjamin adds, ‘If the sentence is the wall before the language of the original, literalness is the arcade.’ Translation is always insufficient: it serves to emphasise the distance between languages, not to bridge it. The airiness of the arcade is only achieved when we embrace ‘the distance, alienness, lack, and mismatch between languages’ – translation not as transmission of meaning, but as the awareness of its absence.”
James Bridle (New Dark Age)

“How does someone like me know what’s true and what’s not?’ Tammi says. ‘I’m 54 years old. I don’t watch the news. I don’t listen to the news on the radio. Then when I’m on the internet, and I see something where I’m like, “Holy shit, really?”
Carey Dunne (My month with chemtrails conspiracy theorists’, Guardian, May 2017)

There seems a tendency, ideologically, in the West today, a tendency that finds expression in the informal writings on personal blogs. It is a reactionary tendency one might label the ‘angry white guy’ position. And there are a good many very smart people who embody this. It is far from their only position (which is the point) and, in fact, they are often dissident voices with a far better sense of skepticism, and a better prose style, too, than what is found in Academia. The academic left is by and large useless and stuck in identity politics and quagmires such as *diversity* etc. And even the non academic left has a dismal record over the last twenty years, starting with the Milosevic trial and on through the pandemic and now with NATO and Ukraine, and even with Israel. So it is painful to repeatedly see these *angry white guy* tropes infiltrate otherwise admirable writing. These tropes include anti-communism, anti-Marxism, anti-Freudianism, and anti-black racism (albeit disguised).

I find most of these writings to be by men and the sensibility is tied into issues of masculinity. (The quality of snark in men is simply different than it is in women). Given that most of these writers are not well educated, the default subject position is cynicism and aggression. And it’s probably unfair and not entirely accurate to question their education. They are certainly not well educated, though, by any metric. Hollywood can be blamed for a good deal of this masculinity problem. The signifiers for masculinity are military and/or police service, a degree of womanising, black coffee (not that latte woke shit) and red meat. And these stories are repeated and repeated and repeated. The angry white guy is tied to nostalgia for some ill defined American dream, about which they also exhibit cynicism. They drink domestic beer and not that pussy imported shit (the gentrifying white urban guy buys imported….and micro brews). And while many of these writers are insightful about some topics, the conclusions invariably are reactionary. Usually deeply reactionary. And lurking just beneath the surface is racism. And to follow the contours of the logic will land you in the new fascism.

“There is a certain gesture of virility, be it one’s own or someone else’s, that calls for suspicion. It expresses independence, sureness of the power to command, the tacit complicity of all males. Earlier, this was called with awed respect the whim of the master; today it has been democratized, and film heroes show the most insignificant bank clerk how it is done. Its archetype is the handsome dinner-jacketed figure returning late to his bachelor flat, switching on the indirect lighting and mixing himself a whisky and soda: the carefully recorded hissing of the mineral water says what the arrogant mouth keeps to itself: that he despises anything that does not smell of smoke, leather and shaving cream, particularly women, which is why they, precisely, find him irresistible.”
Theodor Adorno (Minima Moralia)

Jason Yates

This is also, of course, the ‘identifying with the aggressor’ idea I have written of before here. Adorno continues (and how stunningly accurate he is, even given the passage of six decades):

“The pleasures of such men, or rather of their models, which are seldom equalled in reality, for people are even now better than their culture, all have about them a latent violence. This violence seems a threat directed against others, of whom such a one, sprawling in his easy chair, has long ceased to have need. In fact it is past violence against himself. If all pleasure has, preserved within it, earlier pain, then here pain, as pride in bearing it, is raised directly, untransformed, as a stereotype, to pleasure: unlike wine, each glass of whisky, each inhalation of cigar smoke, still recalls the repugance that it cost the organism to become attuned to such strong stimuli, and this alone is registered as pleasure. He-men are thus, in their own constitution, what film-plots usually present them to be, masochists. At the root of their sadism is a lie, and only as liars do they truly become sadists, agents of repression. This lie, however, is nothing other than repressed homosexuality presenting itself as the only approved form of heterosexuality. ”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

In an era of wokeness (more on the dialectic of woke below) and MeToo, the muted sexual violence of white masculinity remains. It is always there. But what has changed is the developing violence of women. The American woman today has appropriated much of what she loathes in American men. The gay white male, in contrast, has utterly appropriated a quality of aristocratic condescension. They exhibit (self consciously) a quality of restraint, at least in public. The gay-rights movement has been taken over by white gay men, and in so doing has come to express the strange logic of which Adorno takes note.

“ He-men are thus, in their own constitution, what film-plots usually present them to be, masochists. At the root of their sadism is a lie, and only as liars do they truly become sadists, agents of repression. This lie, however, is nothing other than repressed homosexuality presenting itself as the only approved form of heterosexuality. In Oxford two sorts of student are distinguished, the tough guys and the intellectuals; the latter through this contrast alone, are almost automatically equated with the effeminate. There is much reason to believe that the ruling stratum, on its way to dictatorship, becomes polarized towards these two extremes. Such disintegration is the secret of its integration, the joy of being united in the lack of joy. In the end the tough guys are the truly effeminate ones, who need the weaklings as their victims in order not to admit that they are like them. Totalitarianism and homosexuality belong together. In its downfall the subject negates everything which is not of its own kind. The opposites of the strong man and the compliant youth merge in an order which asserts unalloyed the male principle of domination. In making all without exception, even supposed subjects[…]”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Grant Wood

This is, needless to say, an unpopular opinion today. And it is probably or clearly in need of some revision. But it is not incorrect at all. I remember an ex con I knew, hugely violent and dysfunctional man, but a very smart guy, and he said the hardest men he knew were all bisexual. This is a bit like the dialectic of the matador. For not just violence resides in the person of both genders, but death. Fascism cannot outrun the death it carries within. Adorno was acutely aware of the societal sickness that eventually produced fascism and Auschwitz. And today is reborn ironically in Zionism. Of course Zionism was sick in the 1920s, but few recognized it. And partly this was because (per Adorno)…” an investigation would needs show the sickness proper to the time to consist precisely in normality.” The performance of normality comes at a heavy cost. And today, sixty years on, to achieve convincing normality requires even sterner sacrifices.

“The regular guy, the popular girl, have to repress not only their desires and insights, but even the symptoms that in bourgeois times resulted from repression. Just as the old injustice is not changed by a lavish display of light, air and hygiene, but is in fact concealed by the gleaming transparency of rationalized big business, the inner health of our time has been secured by blocking flight into illness without in the slightest altering its aetiology. The dark closets have been abolished as a troublesome waste of space, and incorporated in the bathroom. What psycho-analysis suspected, before it became itself a part of hygiene, has been confirmed. The brightest rooms are the secret domain of faeces. ”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

But there are now factional normalities. The angry white guy positions normality in what he sees has ‘traditional values’. Heterosexuality, mom, apple pie and hunting. The white liberal urban dwelling gentrifier finds normality in voting Democratic, admitting that social ills are often the fault of the victims, and enjoying rituals of state culture (Hollywood often). And they enjoy the minor privileges of upmarket shopping — small bespoke kitchen items (aforementioned imported beer and quality wines) etc. This urban white gentrifier is fraught with contradiction in a way the NASCAR angry white guys are not. The urban Democrat struggles with an imaginary that is being ruined by homelessness, by drug addiction, by his (or her) ambivalence regards climate. This white urban gentrifier bought into the pandemic protocols, but is having trouble with climate agendas.

Nobody wants to eat bugs or 3D meat.

Lourdes Grobert, photography.

“However, this same power of sex to produce emotionality makes it dangerous to men whose identity is built upon the rejection of emotion; sex then becomes split off, limited to the activity of the penis, an act rather than an encounter. It is also a means of taking up a particular place in the world of men: sexual ‘conquest’ as a symbol of male prowess. The link between such a form of masculinity and sexual abuse is apparent: it is not just present, but inherent in a mode of personality organisation that rejects intimacy. Sex as triumph and achievement slides naturally into sex as rejection and degradation of the other.”
Glaser & Frosh (Child Sexual Abuse)

This is both correct and not quite correct, I think. Or rather, the idea of rejecting emotion is correct, but in the end its not possible to really do so. One ends up with a badly deformed set of, at least, pseudo emotions. And not all men reject emotion. But, all men experience socialization within a specific frame that at the least encourages emotional rigidity. And, the articulation of these ideas is always, also, from a gendered position. But the missing element in the Glaser and Frosh piece is political. What is missing is Marx, really. For the rejection of intimacy did not fall from the sky. It is the learned survival of class domination, and how to perform servitude.

“Unruffled calm, already a prerequisite for applicants receiving highly-paid posts, is an image of the stifled silence that the employers of the personnel manager only later impose politically.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

This ersatz calm is the presentation of deference. The sickness of capitalism imposes its architecture on everyone. All relationships take on dynamics of master and slave, however mediated. How we desire, how we get sick, how we get angry, all of it is a capitalist image. All of it is related to exchange value. One of the things that makes reading a Dante, say, (even in translation) or Sophocles, so often uncanny, is that exchange value is not really being mirrored. By the 19th century, or the late 19th anyway, the sense of death in daily life was becoming obvious.

Marlene Dumas

“ Underlying the prevalent health is death. All the movements of health resemble the reflex-movements of beings whose hearts have stopped beating. Scarcely ever does an unhappily furrowed brow, bearing witness to terrible and long-forgotten exertions, or a moment of pathic stupidity disrupting smooth logic, or an awkward gesture, embarrassingly preserve a trace of vanished life. For socially ordained sacrifice is indeed so universal as to be manifest only in society as a whole, and not in the individual. Society has, as it were, assumed the sickness of all individuals, and in it, in the pent-up lunacy of Fascist acts and all their innumerable precursors and mediators, the subjective fate buried deep in the individual is integrated with its visible objective counterpart.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Today this link with Zombie-ness is more naked than even during the Reich. The fanaticism of the Zionist leadership has shocked people everywhere.

“Western leaders are experiencing two stunning events: defeat in Ukraine, genocide in Palestine. The first is humiliating, the other shameful. Yet, they feel no humiliation or shame. Their actions show vividly that those sentiments are alien to them — unable to penetrate the entrenched barriers of dogma, arrogance and deep-seated insecurities. [How should one explain this] near complete absence of feelings of guilt or shame — especially over Gaza, of being humiliated in the eyes of the world? In conditions of nihilism, matters of conscience are moot. For the implicit rejection of norms, rules and laws frees the individual self to do whatever impulses or ideas or selfish interests impel it. With the superego dissolved, there is no felt obligation to judge oneself in reference to any external or abstract standard. Narcissistic tendencies flourish.”
Michael Brenner (The West’s Reckoning)

Yes, but the superego is not exactly dissolved (I have several blog posts on this). In one sense all that is left is the superego. A raging disproportionate superego devouring the rest of the psyche. It can be both. A dissolving superego and a superego on steroids (advanced capitalism).

Artist unknown, 19th century. Mexican votive painting.

Adorno, and Horkheimer, and Marcuse all, as far back as the 1930s, saw that capitalism was shaping how those living within its system thought and behaved. They understood the fetish character of the commodity and they examined the surplus repression of capitalism. That money and commodities possessed properties beyond the obvious material elements. And that somehow these elusive properties were a source of anxiety and unease. If not immediate suffering.

The masculinity problem, often evoked as ‘crisis of masculinity’ (even by me) is worth looking at through a few statistics. Only 40% of post graduate students are men, but 70% of opiate overdoses are men. Congress is still something like 70% male, and me earn more for the same work by a significant margin (women earn about 20% less for the same job). Overall, everyone is making less than they were in the late 70s. The collective male AND female population is working more and earning less. I rarely, if ever, quote the NYTimes (let alone David Brooks) but I will here:

“More men are leading haphazard and lonely lives. Roughly 15 percent of men say they have no close friends, up from 3 percent in 1990. One in five fathers doesn’t live with his children. In 2014, more young men were living with their parents than with a wife or partner. Apparently even many who are married are not ideal mates. Wives are twice as likely to initiate divorces as husbands.”
David Brooks (Of Boys and Men, NYTimes)

The decline of patriarchal influence on children has had, I think, more unfortunate effects than otherwise. And this is because we live in a society built by capitalism, shaped by an entrepreneurial ideology, a belief in the illusions of free markets and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Without a father, younger boys learn forms of aspiration from social media. Or Hollywood. And the deficit of no immediate intimacy with a father suggests later isolation and fears. And what is nearly always overlooked in masculinity studies is class. Race is focused on, sometimes, and religion even, but not class. And the most indelible patterns of behaviour in western society today are reflections of class. And given the anti Marxism and anti Freudianism in Academia (and more, in the culture at large) the experience of research today can be a depressing experience.

Jeffrey Smart

And here the discussion has to touch on AI, which was a topic for the Aesthetic Resistance podcast recently (#102). There is a lot of pop-psychologizing online regards AI and a fair amount of fear mongering. But the reality is that research and opinion are utterly shaped by Google today (and microsoft et al). The google search engine is narrowly controlled. And as an example, I was looking to find the age of Alan Iverson . Google does answer that (he’s 48) but then adds imaginary questions like “why is Alan Iverson a legend?” There are countless examples of this sort of thing on Google Search. I had one question appear, “Is So and so a great artist?” I mean what the actual fuck. Google is going to answer that? Who is asking anyway? Not the person using the search engine. And it’s not only the opinions presented as fact, it is even more the disturbing appearance of these questions themselves. They are banal and general questions, ones without real answers — certainly not answers provided in two or three sentences. Thought today is being presented as intellectual pablum. And for many people this is all perfectly OK. And of course these structures of internet presentation are everywhere. And their appearance, unrequested, suggest a relationship to authority. For Google Search is like a magician who nobody asked to the party, but who comes and does bad tricks anyway. And threatens you if you don’t pay him.

The Bridle quote at the top of this post has a second part:

“And what would Benjamin make of the fact that Google’s original Translate corpus was composed entirely of multilingual transcripts of meetings of the United Nations and the European Parliament? This, too, is an encoding of barbarism.”
James Bridle (Ibid)

One of the more disturbing aspects of AI is how little the creators understand their creation. And Bridle notes that the logic (a bit like HAL in Kubrick’s 2001) leads, in the end, to violence. Of some kind. In 2016 Google worked to develop unbreakable encryption. At some point the encryption system could not, in effect, explain itself to the Google engineers. And those engineers could not break the encryption. The paradox though, is that this is partly the problem of how narrowly specialized is the training and education of these software engineers.

“The issue here, to a great extent, is that our incoherent age and its media technologies fail to equip people with the ability to fully comprehend basic abstract principles, and transfer the gist of situated experiences and insights to another context. We basically do not get properly familiarized with the universal common-sense abstractions and concepts that make complex discourse and critical thinking possible. Without this familiarity, we are less able to make sense of new and chaotic situations and see the connections and similarities between different experiences and forms of knowledge. Reason as such gets eroded, as Aquinas would probably have put it. The knowledge we do get is specialized, commodified and instrumentalized, and while it can be quite extensive, it has an insular character and doesn’t effectivelty enable critical thinking in the abstract and all-embracing sense. It’s sort of like how someone could learn to reliably use a calculator through rote memorization without having more than a rudimentary grasp of mathematics. He can operate the device, but he’s not a sovereign master of the discipline(s) involved. He could never design and build a calculator.”
Johan Eddebo {Laughlyn} (How generative AI will ruin science and academic research)

This is one aspect of why arts education is so important. The humanities in general. I continue to hammer on about the mid century fascism and how it was never destroyed but only put away in safe places to hibernate. The same class that fostered the conquest of North America, the colonizing of most of the world, 350 years of slave trading and just general plunder of the periphery are still in power. Keith Starmer and King Chuck, or Gates and Frau Genocide (Van der Leyen)….all of them could well have been slave traders if born earlier. In fact Van der Leyen’s family fortune came from selling slaves.

Antikythere mechanism. Greek, 225 BCE

“In 2011, after a legal fight that lasted more than ten years, a group of Kenyans tortured by colonial authorities won the right to sue the British government. The four complainants, selected from among 6,000 depositions, had all been imprisoned in concentration camps in the 1950s and subjected to appalling abuses. Ndiku Mutua and Paulo Muoka Nzili had been castrated; Jane Muthoni Mara had been raped with bottles filled with boiling water; and Wambugu Wa Nyingi survived the March 1959 Hola Massacre, in which camp guards beat eleven detainees to death, leaving seventy-seven others with debilitating injuries. For years, the British government denied the events, and also denied the existence of any records that would corroborate them, along with the rights of former colonial subjects to challenge their oppressors following independence. Once the last of these objections was overturned by the High Court in London, the government was forced to admit that it did indeed possess such documents – thousands of them. Known as the ‘migrated archive’, a huge cache of colonial-era documents was stored at secret sites around the UK for decades, its existence unknown to historians and denied by civil servants. At Hanslope Park in “during screening and interrogations. Common torture tactics included starvation, electrocution, mutilation, and forcible penetration, and extended to whipping and burning detainees to death. The files also contained details of colonial activities in at least thirty-seven other nations, including massacres of villagers during the Malayan emergency, the systematic subversion of democracy in British Guiana, the operation of Army Intelligence torture centres in Aden, and the planned testing of poison gas in Botswana.”
James Bridle (Ibid)

There are aspects of AI and of the various social media platforms which are devoted to the trivializing of everything. I wrote this (on this blog) in 2018.

Merry Alpern, photography.

“Today’s Western security policy managers are anti-intellectuals, seemingly unaware of their moral responsibilities and under much less control than when Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell speech in 1961 warned the world and the US itself about the MIC – the Military-Industrial Complex ( ) Today we are facing a Western militarist cancer in which policies are run by, not the MIC, but the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-MEDIA-ACADEMIC Complex. “
Jan Oberg (Counterpunch, July 2018)

And this is a good part of what is comparatively worse today. The anti intellectuals who run media, and control government. They don’t write books, they don’t even really bother with ghost written ones anymore. And this is because nobody reads. This is a pack of jackals … a vicious nasty and under educated class of bureaucrats who control the governments of the West. This is the inbred diluted ruling class gene pool reaching its end game.”

They don’t write books but ChatGPT does. Because nobody, even the engineers who invented these systems, fully understands how they work, they are satisfied if part of the result will be profitably used. And increasingly people use ChatGPT because they know nobody will read what they write anyway, usually, and probably wouldn’t know it was computer generated or not if they did. Interactions between people are mediated by these new totems. The unread ChatGPT paper is like a religious relic. Or, more, like those relicarios or devotional miniatures from Latin America. And I suspect soon all non-screen artefacts will see small communities develop around them. Not unlike the chem-trail believers do today. And its not as if chemtrails are a fantasy. But reading the skies now is akin to reading the entrails of dead birds. Or deciphering hieroglyphics. The skies are like those zones in AI systems of which only the surface can be seen, and none of it can be understood.

“When Google first released an untrained classifier network on 10 million random YouTube videos in 2012, the first thing it learned to see, without prompting, was a cat’s face: the spirit animal of the internet. Mordvintsev’s network thus dreamed of what it knew, which was more cats and dogs. Further iterations produced Boschian hellscapes of infinite architecture, including arches, pagodas, bridges, and towers in infinite, fractal progressions, according to the neurons activated. But the one constant that recurs throughout DeepDream’s creations is the image of the eye – dogs’ eyes, cats’ eyes, human eyes; the omnipresent, surveillant eye of the network itself. The eye that floats in DeepDream’s skies recalls the all-seeing eye of dystopian propaganda: Google’s own unconscious, composed of our memories and actions, processed by constant analysis and tracked for corporate profit and private intelligence. DeepDream is an inherently paranoid machine because it emerges from a paranoid world.”
James Bridle (Ibid)

Gerhard Richter, photography, media.

“In a real sense, I ought to be able to deduce Fascism from the memories of my childhood. As a conqueror dispatches envoys to the remotest provinces, Fascism had sent its advance guard there long before it marched in: my schoolfellows. If the bourgeois class has from time immemorial nurtured the dream of a brutal national community, of oppression of all by all; children already equipped with Christian-names like Horst and Jürgen and surnames like Bergenroth, Bojunga and Eckhardt enacted the dream before the adults were historically ripe for its realization. I felt with such excessive clarity the force of the horror towards which they were straining, that all subsequent happiness seemed revocable, borrowed. The outbreak of the Third Reich did, it is true, surprise my political judgement, but not my unconscious fear. So closely had all the motifs of permanent catastrophe brushed me, so deeply were the warning signs of the German awakening burned into me, that I recognized them all in the features of Hitler’s dictatorship…{ } In Fascism the nightmare of childhood has come true.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

This is actually an important paragraph of Adorno’s, beyond the personal quality it captures the feeling of unreality most everyone I know today experiences. In some strangulated fashion the machine age, the Enlightenment, and before that even at the dawn of language humanity signed a deal with the Devil. Slowly, incrementally, the march toward a full-on nightmare was taking place. And today the hostility of the bourgeoisie in Western societies is palpable — hostility to thinkers like Marx, Freud, and Adorno. One sees little hostility toward Hayak or Milton Friedman, or, say Junger. Ayn Rand remains inexplicably popular. Fascism has returned. The IDF, the Zionist settlers, are the culmination of the savagery of all settlers. They are a condensed version of Manifest Destiny, of apartheid South Africa, and Carib sugar plantations. Today children in the poorest nations on earth work in soul deadening and dangerous jobs for pennies a day. Nobody cares, really. You can far more quickly mobilize people, Americans anyway, but most Europeans, too, with discussions about trans men running in races intended for women. Pick a topic. In Gaza the starving of children and infants is cheered by Israelis. They block food getting these children and families. But not many care, it seems. People are pro Palestinian by and large but not with any serious committment. This is because they know somewhere in the back of their brain they, too, are at risk. Life is precarious. More now than even a handful of years ago. The unreality has a disquieting effect, a kind of mental vertigo sets in and its time for the Celexa or Zoloft, or just Oxycontin.

“But beyond that we know their oligarchic preference: they’d prefer there were fewer of us, a lot fewer of us. As more job categories go to robots, ever more of the freshly available capital goes into developing AI.* The oligarchs don’t mind conversing with Alexa and Siri—it’s a lot better than talking to labor lawyers (speaking of doomed employment categories)—and, with VR porn and sexbots just around the corner, there’ll be no need to sexually harass the junior execs, secretarial staff, and nubile post-grad interns. Just ask Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr. and one-time Trump nominee for secretary of labor, “[Robots are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Curtis White (Living in a World that Can’t Be Fixed)

Johannes Kahrs

I wrote a good deal about AI specifically here: https://john-steppling.com/2022/05/the-comfort-of-the-metropole/

There is an important few paragraphs in the Yarden Katz book (probably the most important critique of AI). Referring to Edward Said’s ideas on Orientalism…

“Said cautioned against seeing Orientalism as “nothing more than a structure of lies or of myths, which, were the truth about them be told, would simply blow away.” Said argued that, perhaps counterintuitively, Orientalism is not an attempt at a “veridic discourse about the Orient, contrary to what academic Orientalists might say, but rather “a sign of European-Atlantic power” and should be analyzed as such. Similarly, my premise is that AI isn’t an attempt at a “veridic” account of human thought nor a technology for reproducing human thought in machines. AI is better seen as a mirror of the political projects of its practitioners and invested powers.”
Yarden Katz (Artificial Whiteness)

This is important. And it echos Kate Crawford’s quote that ‘AI is a registry of power’. Katz notes from a prescient 2023 article:

“Israel’s existence has been premised on genocidal violence against Palestinians, which Israelis are programmed to support from a young age. But in seeing the latest catastrophe created by Israel, I’ve been wondering again: Are Israelis Jews?
I didn’t come up with this question. It has been asked before by others who recognize that the zionist project, culminating in Israel, is profoundly contrary to Jewish traditions and to the historical existence of Jews as minority communities. The creation of Israel has suppressed these Jewish traditions and ways of living while hijacking parts of them when convenient. In Palestine specifically, Israel has basically destroyed the possibilities for Jews to live as non-colonizers in the land where Jews have lived as a minority for ages. For all these reasons, the dismantling of Israel and the liberation of Palestine must also be a Jewish struggle — a struggle that should go far beyond Jews showing solidarity for Palestinians or simply not wanting to be oppressors. “Israeli” is a colonial identity that should be renounced, not just because it harms Palestinians but also because it is deeply anti-Jewish. And while Jewish life cannot revolve around anti-zionism, in our times, to be a Jewish institution should mean being anti-zionist. For the sake of Palestinians, but also for the sake of Jews.”

Yarden Katz (Are Israelis Jews? Returning to Jewish minority life. Mondoweiss, 2023)

The entire article is brilliant and found here https://mondoweiss.net/2023/11/are-israelis-jews-returning-to-jewish-minority-life/

Karel Cudlín, photography. (Prague, 2014)

More to the point are the implications of AI as seen from the continuum of western scientism, an ideological position that includes the reproduction of class hierarchies and an inherent tendency, then, toward colonial logic and authoritarianism.

“The quest to pin down intelligence has always served imperial and capitalist institutions by producing such hierarchies of human worth. Appeals to “intelligence” have sanctioned the sterilization, murder, and incarceration of those society deems disposable, notably the poor and non-white. But disposability was also shaped by the need for labor. { } Regimes of racial intelligence change over time. The overtly eugenic regime was superseded by a regime of standardized testing, which used a more sanitized language of aptitude or ability, and later, merit. Today’s standardized testing regime is presented as a tool for reducing social bias and increasing the diversity of institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light a reconfigured regime of racial intelligence, appearing under the banner of online learning. Amid global misery and death, the leading company in this space, Coursera, launched its initial public offering in March 2021 with a market cap of $5.9 billion. { } But online learning provided a fresh framing: this time, the promise is not to protect the nation’s racial purity from the so-called feeble-minded, or even to deliver a meritocracy, but to democratize education. The architects of Coursera are practitioners from the field of artificial intelligence (AI) who recycle earlier racist theories of intelligence, but scaled up. On this platform, tests presented during courses to millions of users are used to define exploitable populations, while the computing medium is used to shape the contents of the new curriculum. Such platforms help to maintain the hegemony of U.S. institutions, which determine the measuring stick against which everyone is ranked and try to teach the world to better serve capital. Each of these intelligence regimes upholds white supremacy by capitalizing on difference and using it to define populations to exploit and marginalize. This practice depends on statistics. The field of statistics provides the means for manufacturing differences between individuals and across groups. It has made racialism quantitative and profitable, while obscuring white supremacy with mathematical abstractions. The tools and ways of thinking offered by this discipline were designed to produce hierarchies of human worth.”
Yarden Katz (Intelligence Under Racial Capitalism, Monthly Review, 2022)

This is similar to Jonathan Beller’s ideas in The Message is Murder. So, the implications of this new wave of statistical racialism, are tied very closely with the marketing of AI. It is also not a coincidence that a normalizing of the once prohibited rhetoric of fascism and genocide. The increasingly accepted rhetoric of special classes of people (in this case Jews — who aren’t — but never mind). And statistics are the fruit of the scientific revolution of the 19th century. AI increasingly feels like the science of capitalism and white supremacism (which is a good part of Beller’s point).

Devon Shimoyama

“A rejection of racialism would threaten the scientific enterprise’s appeal to imperial and capitalist institutions. After all, why insist on the label science if not to claim the privileged epistemic status and tools on which these institutions depend? Rather than breaking with racialism, then, scientific reformism simply assumes that scientific tools and frameworks are valuable and seeks to apply these differently. This same scientific reformism is being packaged under fashionable labels, from “science for liberation” to “decolonial AI.”
Yarden Katz (Ibid)

As the era of deep fakes is ushered in, and where AI has become reasonably accomplished at creating images, the idea of proof and evidence is losing importance. This loss becomes an excuse for increasing occult explanations of the state’s mystifications. If the state wants to explain the strange fires in Hawaii and Chile, they can do so now easily enough without recourse to ‘proof’. What substitutes for proof now is the new nudge nudge wink wink of hucksters like Yuval Harari or Jordan Peterson. And always these pseudo explanations are couched in white supremacist conclusions. All population fear mongering is pure eugencis. Nothing more. Are you going to believe your eyes or me?

“The power of occultism, as of Fascism, to which it is connected by thought-patterns of the ilk of anti-semitism, is not only pathic. Rather it lies in the fact that in the lesser panaceas, as in superimposed pictures, consciousness famished for truth imagines it is grasping a dimly present knowledge diligently denied to it by official progress in all its forms. It is the knowledge that society, by virtually excluding the possibility of spontaneous change, is gravitating towards total catastrophe. The real absurdity is reproduced in the astrological hocus-pocus, which adduces the impenetrable connections of alienated elements – nothing more alien than the stars – as knowledge about the subject. The menace deciphered in the constellations resembles the historical threat that propagates itself precisely through unconsciousness, absence of subjects. That all are prospective victims of a whole made up solely of themselves, they can only make bearable by transferring that whole to something similar but external. In the woeful idiocy they practice, their empty horror, they are able to vent their impracticable woe, their crass fear of death, and yet continue to repress it, as they must if they wish to go on living. The break in the line of life that indicates a lurking cancer is a fraud only in the place where it purports to be found, the individual’s hand; where they refrain from diagnosis, in the collective, it would be correct. Occultists rightly feel drawn towards childishly monstrous scientific fantasies. The confusion they sow between their emanations and the isotopes of uranium is ultimate clarity. The mystical rays are modest anticipations of technical ones. Superstition is knowledge, because it sees together the ciphers of destruction scattered on the social surface; it is folly, because in all its death-wish it still clings to illusions: expecting from the transfigured shape of society misplaced in the skies an answer that only a study of real society can give.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Roger Brown

The truth is, of course, that the majority of people are rightly skeptical. The majority will always vote for the most progressive candidates (which is why very radial candidates are never allowed on the ballot) if given the choice. The majority, though, are buffeted by a constant media assault. And it seems to me that this assault now takes the form, ever more, of instilling doubt in everything — even their own message. The authority used to demand belief in their positions. Now they only demand you do not believe in the positions of the ‘other’. The message is now ‘we are not sure’. This confession of uncertainty is a new presentation of ‘maturity’. With the pandemic, the marketing slogan was ‘trust the science’. And yet, that science was never explained. Those who tried were deemed subversives or crack pots. In fact the desire FOR explanation itself was deemed unhealthy.

Across of all these related issues runs white supremacism and nowhere is that so clear as in the ‘testing’ industry.

“Following their studies of the army, Yerkes, Terman, and Brigham began developing commercial intelligence tests. Brigham went on to create the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which was taken by 2.2 million students in 2020. Intelligence testing was also adopted by employers. Testing became big business: test sales increased from less than $7 million in 1955 to over $296 million in 1997 (in 1998 U.S. dollars). A booming test preparation industry has emerged, led by companies such as Kaplan, Inc. and The Princeton Review. This standardized testing regime serves essentially the same functions as prior regimes of racial intelligence—assigning differential worth to human life and funneling people into jobs by a racist logic—but its rhetoric and tools have changed. After the German Nazi regime embraced U.S. eugenics and attendant programs of murdering or sterilizing the “feeble-minded,” cruder notions of racial intelligence became less politically viable. The appeals to racial purity were replaced by discourses about efficiency, and testing was again presented as a tool for assigning jobs to workers. During the Cold War, the testing apparatus was sold as a means of cultivating the brainpower needed to maintain U.S. hegemony against the Soviets.”
Yarden Katz (Ibid)

Stephen Shore, photography.

Fast foward to AI in the present.

“Like the architects of intelligence testing, practitioners in the field of AI have often taken abstract puzzle-solving or tasks that are profitable to corporations as indicators of intelligence. However, their notion of intelligence is frequently left implicit. As I have argued elsewhere, the concept of AI is nebulous and malleable to power; any project involving a computer can be considered AI if it can be shown to serve empire and capital. This flexibility has made AI a useful vehicle for oppression.”
Yarden Katz (Ibid)

Seeing this evolution and the marketing of AI (and stuff like ChatGPT) it is not hard to see the climate discourse as blatantly racialized, too. And, again, AI in the form of computer modelling is the key ingredient. Access to instruments of computation is only one factor. (Where are all the African and South American climate scientists?).

The entire climate discussion is a white world problem. Of course in classic colonial fashion, white science travels to the Maldives or Sao Tome and Principe or Namibia the better to point out the looming catastrophe. The use of Innuit elders to discuss changes in their landscapes is both exploitive and manipulative. Landscapes have always changed but nobody asked. And nowhere are discussions of the climate impact of the US military bases being hurriedly built above the arctic circle. It is hard to overestimate, in fact, the role of US militarism. It is the bodyguard of capitalism. The internet itself was born of military research. The ultimate message now is to learn to live with uncertainty. Cant prove or disprove. Only crackpots take passionate positions on anything. A refined indifference is what one should cultivate. Never mind the stark terror just below the surface.

To donate to this blog (and the Aesthetic Resistance podcasts https://aestheticresistance.substack.com/p/podcast-102) use the paypal button at the top of the page.


  1. Johnny Conspiranoid says:

    ” As more job categories go to robots,”
    A consumer-bot will have to be invented.

  2. Johnny Conspiranoid says:

    A lot of this angry white guy stuff might be designed and organised on a large scale to and you in the new fascism.

  3. Johnny Conspiranoid says:

    that should be ‘land you in the new fascism’.
    The very consistency of the pattern suggests that.

  4. George Mc says:

    The angry white writer phenomenon has also been further neutralised in potency by what seems to be an accelerating ignorance about Marxism since the media cunningly bifurcated opposition via the covid manoeuvre i.e. “official Marxist” analysis was channelled through the dogma of covid. The “Great Plague” was presupposed and the “fight against the virus” was linked with the new-born religion that parades under the term “The Science” which was likewise linked to “The Way Ahead”, “The Judgement of History” and “Progress”. Scepticism about covid was relentlessly assigned to “The Right” with an inversion of the previous linkage i.e. with the adjuncts of “Superstition”, “Regress”, “Magical Thinking”, “The Occult” – all this connected of course to “conspiracy theory”.

    The result of this is a bizarre situation in which those who reject the covid narrative – which is the only position to a genuinely dissident position – are bereft of any Marxist awareness and invariably reject Marx with the old anarchist chestnut that the Marxist movement was secretly funded by agents serving the capitalist imperialist centres.

    And it is this cartoonish strain that I find everywhere – one obvious example being Paul Cudenec who can be very good when assessing the deceptions of the last four years and the role of the pseudo-Left in implementing these deceptions. But unfortunately as an “anarchist”, he feels inclined to bash Marx who, it is clear, he has never read. In a drearily familiar pattern, he therefore relies on the old straw man images of Marx that seem to have been in circulation forever. Thus we get the Antony Sutton and Carroll Quigley stuff.

    I made an attempt to read these writers but soon ran into the most ludicrous simplifications of history. From what I recall, Sutton goes through the familiar manoeuvre of presupposing some kind of pure “free market” capitalism that would work if only we gave it a chance whilst Quigley has rewrote the entire history of humanity in terms of capital i.e. every earlier phase was an incipient capitalism

    Thus you can see the devastating potency of that covid manoeuvre. Even four years after this bullshit began there seems to be this artificial division operating whereby you can EITHER read Marxist stuff that presupposes the covid narrative OR you can read the stuff that genuinely rejects the covid narrative but resorts to often infantile simplifications with NO AWARENESS of Marx’s critique of capitalism.

  5. George Mc says:

    This is why – since the covid programme began – there has been an appalling regression in discourse. Before covid, you could find an accurate fundamental understanding of Marx. Now it is much more difficult and the positions taken up on the side that can see through the media deceptions now fall back on dreary old reactionary notions of Marx.

    In the absence of the old understanding, there are worrying developments.

    Thus, on the one hand, there is a resurgence of that “black tide of occultism” with a huge rise in the “Erich von Däniken factor” and the primary colour simplifications of the “Grand Conspiracy” approach along with an upsurge in the Biblical prophecy angle.

    On the other, there is the equally gullible reversion to that old uncomprehending acceptance of capitalism’s theology i.e. the old blasé presupposition of some “natural market” system that is so blandly taken for granted that very few seem to even see it.

    The result of this is a fragmentation of method that corresponds to a fragmentation of the psyche itself. And the infantilization of this becomes increasingly obvious and disturbing.

    I am becoming more frustrated by those who seem content to fall back on the pronouncements of quasi-religious figures like Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. Like the garish UFO stuff, this is the kind of writing that provokes a superficial thrill but leads to tedium pretty fast since it appears to have no content that actually connects with that gritty reality of everyday life in which horrors are now accumulating. (That “opium of the people” remark seems relevant here.)

    And a corresponding development is the easy point scoring of so much commentary on the net. And we have a resurgence of the old Rightist meme of the “macho rugged individual” who never stops railing at “the collective”. There is a clear sense of arrested adolescence in this which corresponds to the most constantly emphasised image in that consumerist “youth culture” that emerged in the 50s: the brusque, “magnificently “sullen, “outsider” figure. When this image comes to dominate, the aim of every exchange is simply to score points in the well named institution of “the pissing contest”.

    Isaiah Berlin once said of Marx:

    “All his life he detested two phenomena with peculiar passion: disorderly life and histrionic display. It seemed to him that bohemianism and deliberate flouting of conventions was but inverted philistinism, emphasising and paying homage to the very same false values by exaggerated protest against them, and exhibiting therefore the same fundamental vulgarity.”

    I can think of no more accurate summary of the kind of “hero” elevated by the media ever since the rise of “youth culture” in the 1950s. This would seem to be also a description of the god of the anarchist movement, Bakunin. And this confirms Hal Draper’s well founded reservations about anarchism as a movement that always had the effect of fragmenting oppositional groups.

  6. John Steppling says:

    brilliant, george. Cudenec saddens me because I mostly like him. But he seems ever more intent on his anti communism and anti marxism. left is often anti intellectual in fact, mostly because they cant wait to banish you from their party. But the conflation of fascism and communism continues to infect discourse, and your thoughts on Covid (Im writing a bit on this for the next post) are quite perceptive.

  7. I loved this post in so many ways and it inspired me to write in new ways. Since I closed my wine business that I had for 8 years (I will hold the wine comments in your post in abeyance but will note that it has been a spectacular way to understand history, culture, science, art, connect with interesting people all over the world, etc etc as well as generally getting more understanding of human behavior) I have been writing furiously. One of the things that I have noticed about my-self over the years is that when I have had a break from working every day the flow of ideas and insights is non-stop and that most people don’t have that opportunity. Someone asked me what I learned from being a wine merchant / small biz owner for 8 years and I paused and said “Most people don’t know how to think”. I’m writing an essay on that.

    Anyway, the google search continuum does fascinate me. Like anyone else I have noticed it. I have a close friend on the west coast who is a writer – we became lifelong friends when we used to go to author events at Elliot Bay Books in Pioneer Square in Seattle (the original location was iconic and lovely in so many ways – the enterprise still exists — in a new location –but the current manifestation is very sad).
    Its incredible to think back on those author events at a bookstore in Seattle – it was a completely different era – sometimes it was standing-room-only … and my friend and I used to go all the time. The most memorable, at least for me, though there were many, was W.G. Sebald in fall 2001. I had an unhealthy attachment to Sebald’s books and then he appeared at Elliott Bay and that event was over-flowing. I got to have a couple words with him and he signed my copy of Austerlitz. A couple months later I was at Zeitgeist Coffee, also in the Pioneer Square neighborhood near where I lived and I bought a cappuccino and a NYT Sunday paper (this was 2001 still, of course) and I had my copy of Austerlitz in my messenger bag (always had at least a couple books in it) and I’m reading the NYT and I read the article about how he had just died in the car accident. Had no idea that he had just died and that I was still in the midst of the book he had just signed for me 6 weeks or whatever before, a couple blocks away from where I was sitting at the time. Very Sebald in some ways.
    Anyway, I’m still great friends with the friend I went to the Sebald and many other author events with and we trade stories, attempts at humor, fragments of lit., etc like we have been doing for many years. Last week he sent me a text that immediately reminded me of the closing lines of a Robert Bly poem. Since I wasn’t at home and could not check my memory with the paper copy of RB’s collected poems, I still wanted to send the last lines of the poem back to him and so I took out my iPhone and typed into the google app “Robert Bly After Drinking All Night With A Friend, We Go Out In A Boat At Dawn …” Many times, if you know the title or a good chunk of the lines you can get the text of the whole poem on the googler … I’ve done this many times.
    Even though I’m pretty keen on some things in the matrix, I was still surprised and somewhat amused that the top search result was for a “Suicide and Crisis” hotline and most of the other “results” were for substance abuse programs … I could instantly hear Robert laughing … though of course his life like many others was touched by suicide (his step-son, his second wife’s son, killed himself while at college)

    A few friendships, a few dawns, a few glimpses of grass,
    A few oars weathered by the snow and the heat,
    So we drift toward shore, over cold waters,
    No longer caring if we drift or go straight

  8. John Steppling says:

    god, I remember standing room only in book stores. In Berkeley, in NY, even in LA. I remember the stores closed, and people went to the remaining stores less often. But then , in a flash, IT WAS GONE. All gone. In one fell swoop. (and yes google gets worse all the time. Its now almost Borgesian, actually). Thank you for that comment.

  9. George Mc says:

    Cudenec’s anti-Marxism – more specifically anti-Bolshevism – appears to be accelerating, going by his tweets. I already responded twice to this, first countering his claim that Marxist writers were “tedious” and second, asking him straight out if he’d ever read Marx. He has yet to answer either.

    Simon Elmer was almost the only one coming from an apparently Marxist angle but not taken in by any of the covid and post covid crap. But he seems to have retreated into a paranoid defensiveness. He has dismissed “the Left” – justifiably, considering its compliance with that covid programme – and, like Preparata, seems to have arrived at a jaundiced view of “Leftism”. Though he hasn’t attacked Bolshevism.

    I wonder what is behind this anti-Bolshevism considering its anachronism at present. Why is Cudenec turning away from his very relevant attacks on recent propaganda and these obvious assaults on the public to viciously condemn a movement that has long since faded and a society now part of history?

  10. John Steppling says:

    Cudenec has most certainly accelerated. He seems almost obsessed. The problem is, of course, that so much of the left failed miserably on Covid. From the trots at WSWS to stephen gowans to, well, you name it. I touch on some of this in my next post….out today. So….we can continue this discussion.

Speak Your Mind


To Verify You\'re Human, Please Solve The Problem: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.