“cultural fascism”

November 3rd, 2010 | No comments yet

Speaking of “cultural fascism” and the Weimarization of the United States is no longer an isolated phenomena. A couple of days ago I was reading The Pique here in Whistler and noticed not one, but two columnists deploying terms of analysis that took the rise of the extreme right in the United States at its full value. Check out the talented and thoughtful Michel Beaudry, who in his Alta States column wrote:

Look at what’s happening to our neighbours down south. For the last two years, a group of very disturbed people have been repeating the fiction that President Obama is a secret Muslim. Makes me think of the Converso claims against Jews in Europe in medieval times. Turns out that strategy was a great way to scapegoat a segment of the population that chose to live outside the maintream. Maybe that’s what these modern racists are thinking
too.

But what really disturbs me is that in a country increasingly dominated by talk show hosts discussing the sexual peccadilloes of its celebrities, a growing minority of people are actually beginning to believe that Obama is a Muslim. Doesn’t matter that this has absolutely no basis in fact. Doesn’t matter that Obama and his family are regular church-goers. It’s all about destruction by innuendo. And it seems to be working.

Which begs the obvious question: would it matter if Obama were a Muslim? Would it really change what Americans thought of him? And if so, what does that say about the state of that once-great American “democracy.” Sounds more like cultural fascism to me. (Michel Beaudry, Alta States, October 21st, 2010 in Pique)

Beaudry outlines aptly the strategies of doublespeak and doublethink analysed by Orwell and deployed so aptly by totalitarian regimes the world over. Then there’s G.D. Maxwell’s column Maxed Out, entitled “Stupid is where it’s at.” Max’s column couldn’t have come closer to my own last post; it hits upon similar points concerning an increased culture of stupidity (and short-term memory). He writes:

Stupid is where it’s at now. If you want to do well in politics these days, you can’t be too stupid, too narrowly self-interested, or too vitriolic. And god help you if you actually know what vitriolic means because if you do, you’re probably too intellectual, too effete, too – horrors – elite, to appeal to a populace enthralled in their quest to discover who can dance better than a 5th grader but too indifferent to pay any real attention to the adult problems surrounding them. […]

Smart ain’t cool anymore. As an expat American, I can only shudder at what’s happening on the other side of the border as mid-term elections approach in a couple of weeks. Card-carrying and stubbornly proud idiots are about to take control of congress and finish the job they started under St. Reagan and tried mightily to complete under Bush the Stupid – driving the country and, if they have their way the world, back into the Dark Ages.

Stupid attacks the other, whether the other is eastern-educated elites, religious minorities, racial minorities, homosexuals, fact-based science or, gasp, even Canadians. Canadians!?

Yet again this week, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle – who stands an inexplicably good chance of unseating majority leader Harry Reid in Nevada’s senate race – claimed Canada’s “porous” border allowed terrorists, and by direct implication 9/11 terrorists, into the US. That most of them were in the country on student visas was just an annoying fact. “Fact? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts.” (G.D. Maxwell, Maxed Out, October 21st 2010 in Pique)

    the nightmare years

    October 31st, 2010 | 4 comments

    Were the Western democracies in an increasingly totalitarian world becoming too soft or too stupid or too tired to defend themselves and the freedoms and decencies they had won and maintained for their peoples? It was a question I was to ponder more and more from that night on through the next few years until the answer became increasingly and appallingly clear. — William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940, p. 104

    Between the 2012ers and the Tea Party I am surrounded by the same logic of coming transformation, of an ecstatic overcoming of present conditions, a transcendental event which will circle its horizon only around its true believers. Whether fueled by the belief in the Second Coming, or of the transformation of humankind into some kind of consciousness-uplift thanks to Mayan prophecy, the Western democracies face the basic failure of civil society and the political structure to mediate desire into action and consensus, on the one channel, and to resolve the violence of capital and corporate control of the entire sociopolitical and media infrastructure, on the other.

    The re-education channel

    Today on CBC Radio 1 I heard a Tea Party candidate in Florida tell journalist Michael Enright that Glenn Beck’s television program is “educational.” What passes for enlightenment has reached such a new low that violence and ignorance has become the content of so-called “education.” Affect has trumped the negotiations of reason, the analysis of history, the ambiguities of discourse, the processes of a democracy. If Glenn Beck is “education,” then indeed with the rise of the US extreme Right we are witnessing the effective culmination of sixty years of televised “re-education.” The United States organised media monopolies have invented a newer, cheaper form of re-education envied by authoritarian states the world over. For it is no longer necessary to round-up and hold in containment the opposition, intellectual or impoverished or otherwise. It is no longer necessary to throw the enemies of the State into “re-education camps.” In the 21st century US of A, FOX television will suffice.

    We can speak of the prison of media.

    The rise of the far Right — is it not a sign of the utter collapse of the US education system, not in its loftier establishments, but in its broad base? Has it come to this?

    Has it not been, to a degree, engineered to do so? The collapse of a populace of educated citizens appears to be the goal of various disenfranchising policies, from obliterating educational funding to favouring religious dogmatism over scientific debate. From structure to content, education is social engineering not of accumulative development, but the disintegration of critical thought.

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      The Rise of the New Dumb

      October 29th, 2010 | 6 comments

      A new project — resurrection of authoritarian analysis, but with a twist, taken from the Good Doctor, Hunter S. Thompson: the Rise of the New Dumb.

      The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic. – Hunter S. Thompson

      The New Dumb

      (1) The inability to comprehend basic maths. That lower taxes cannot provide more services. That lower taxes for the wealthy will not result in more plasma screens or digital gadgets for the average lumpenurbanite. That lower taxes will not reduce car traffic. That lower taxes will not cure cancer, or make you lose weight. That the reduction of taxes has little to do with the size of government, which demonstrably increases under all politicians and parties whose main platform is to lower taxes.

      (2) Analysis of the lumpenurbanite. A new class of the Dumb. In which the urban periphery views the city core as the playground of sexual fantasy and violence, where the cheap clothing accessories, made in global sweatshops, can be displayed as symbols of urban power. And this urban power exists; it elected a Mayor whose entire platform culminates in the negation of the city, with no positive vision of its future other than as a parking lot.

      (3) Properly, all movements of the New Dumb are not politics. The New Dumb seeks to negate the space of the polis. Speaking in tongues, carrying weapons, obliterating spaces of gathering, destroying means of human-powered transport — these are all movements against the political in its generality, the heritage of the space and time of speaking and gathering collectively, the polis.

      *Note to self: will write further on this claim vis-a-vis Rancière’s notion of politics as dissensus. What I suggest is that the New Dumb is not producing dissensus, but actively seeking to cleanse the political of such. It is a new police order or distribution of the sensible that aims to render the political terrain impassable.

      (4) Analysis of this Mayor, in which the politics of the negative become a fetish, physically displayed, outwardly, in the slouch of the body. Negative politics in which the scapegoat is the apparatus of administration and election itself. The bodily affect of the negative is physical largesse, which is the sign of what is to come: bureaucratic bloat. Listen not to the words — look at the belly. That there is a certain irony in an elected Mayor who wants to “stop the gravy train” and yet appears to have swallowed it, whole. This is analysis of affective politics where power resides in a centralized body (see Massumi and Dean).

      (5) This Dumb Politics encompasses a destruction of the city core, and its transformation into a fantasy playground for the car culture of the lumpenurbanite. The city is a parking lot, a highway, a place for the expression of suburbia’s expressive resolution of what it views on television of the Big City – the horrors, gleefully watched, of mob violence, cop culture, whores & drugs – by making it more real than Real. Which includes, as a positionless political platform: the negation of cyclists and bike lines; the negation of public transit; the negation of non heteronormative cultures (if not peoples); the negation of immigrant populations and neighbourhoods. The city core is to be transformed into a Fat Playground. Once tooled as the shopping centre for illicit pleasures, the city will be blamed for its ills and immoral being, as corruptor of the youth. And so He struck down Sodom and Gomorrah — in His Hysteria.

      (6) When HST ran for Sheriff in 1969, his second campaign promise was to change the name of Aspen to Fat City. HST saw it coming, and wished to head it off at the pass by calling a spade a spade, and by doing so, allowing the symbol to denigrate itself. His campaign points (which I believe were entirely serious) included:

      1. Rip up all city streets with jackhammers and sod the streets at once.

      2. Change the name Aspen to Fat City. This would prevent greed heads, land rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name ‘Aspen’. These swine should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land.

      3. It will be the general philosophy of the sheriff’s office that no drug worth taking shall be sold for money. My first act as sheriff will be to install on the sheriff’s lawn a set of stocks to punish dishonest dope dealers.

      HST realised that the only way to resist the New Dumb is to become an opposition so radically unpalatable that it cannot be swallowed. To become the vicissitudes of a radical pleasure — not a consumable pleasure of patriarchal violence and property. Outright, organised, elected, autonomous Freak Power.

      (7) The Rise of the new Dumb is explicit. Like early 20th century Fascism, it wears its heart on its sleeve. We can all see it coming. It has a platform. It is destructive, and above all, selfish. Incredibly selfish. It appeals to the most selfish, senseless attributes of the human condition: to defeat minor, bureaucratic power through the assumption of a power more destructive and violent than all that came before; to overcome the complexities of the world by rendering it into banal, childish terms; to ignore the world’s dangers by remaking it as a pleasure dome; to target and scapegoat all those who not only refuse to live inside the bubble, but all those who would tear down its catastrophic illusion.

      (8) The New Dumb revels in its stupidity. It signs off without content, it signals no argument, it has no reasons, it just operates blind, steering through life like a consumer with a free credit card. It only has its exit, in the end, to play. This exit must be refused, lest it take all of us down with the ship.

      Rob Ford (to CBC’s As It Happens): Pardon me? I can’t talk to you right now—I’m really, I’m on a really tight schedule, so I hate to be rude, but I gotta let you go, and we can chat another time. Really nice talking to you, all the best, buh-bye.

      (9) Which is worse — an organised Fascism hellbent on overtaking the world while methodically exterminating its opposition, or a disorganised Dumb hellbent on destroying the world in its mass stupidity? There is no equivalence here; there is no worse than worse; there is only the Worst for our times, and as such, it ought to be taken with pitchforks in hand, and fought without quarter.

      Rise Freak Power.

        fanclub theory — and, like, what, again?

        September 29th, 2010 | No comments yet

        All innovative works in words have their devout followers. In academia, especially in the discipline of Philosophy, or in the fields that comment upon philosophical discourse, the proper name of the author is propped up by an entire phalanx of scribes who are kept busy in the near limitless exegesis.

        While such interpretations may be enlightening, 90% of it comes out as so much rotten praise. At its worst, fanclub theory amounts to a dreadful repetition of unexamined phrases, and despite its rhetorical claims otherwise, produces not the unthought crevices of this-or-that, but a text of dead concepts floating in a morass of jargon, without connection to a thesis, and without hope of breaking free from its tethers.

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          head down, arms up, hands out

          September 13th, 2010 | 5 comments

          What is it with hip-hop and the arm wave? Why wave arms side-to-side in the air? Is this a gesture of unity? Like crowds of the mid 20th century, the arms aligned in position, all are become one, in the movement of movements….

          But why the arms? Why are emcees so concerned with aligned arms? Why should we not care about it, or rather, why are emcees telling us not to care about it?

          Hands in the air, the transcendance of care.

          Watching Kool Keith I would expect Dr. Octagon to ask us to wave anything but arms in the air. Or, if waving arms, to signal with inventive and improvised semaphore the coordinates of the next landing, infrasonic investigation of orifices, or otherwise booty call for the Black Elvis.

          But he too (and all his selves) are concerned with the unity of an arm wave set to regulation appeal.

          In 1998, in San Francisco, Black Elvis does not call upon an audience to wave. The audience waves itself (according to footage).

          In 2007, Kool Keith unmasked in hoodie, still holding spit but seemingly no longer split into conscious costume (or is he?), requires ultramagnetic inflection to wave arms at his behest, of an audience now almost exclusively white.

          Heads down bop up, beatdown backpacks on – arms up, salute? Wave like you just don’t care?

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            DANCECULT 1.2

            August 2nd, 2010 | No comments yet

            the gonzo academics of soniculture return

            Without too much further ado I would like to point you toward issue 1.2 of Dancecult, which features – among other gonzo academic explorations of soniculture and the rave underground – “Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture.” This piece of mine, under works in various forms for approximately a decade, explores rave culture from the perspective of political theory of autonomia, the political economy of contemporary labour, and philosophy of technology, proposing that rave culture – which I consider deceased as of 2000 – be considered one of the 20th century’s greater movements of exodus from the constraints of consumer capitalist monoculture, by way of precarity of labour and the technics of its soniculture. Undoubtedly this thesis requires all the more exegesis. La lutte continue.

            ===
            DANCECULT: JOURNAL OF ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC CULTURE
            edition 1.2

            ===

            // FEATURED ARTICLES

            Making a Noise – Making a Difference:
            Techno-Punk and Terra-ism

            *Graham St John

            Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture
            *tobias c. van Veen

            The Aesthetics of Protest in UK Rave
            *Ramzy Alwakeel

            Memory and Nostalgia in Youth Music Cultures:
            Finding the Vibe in the San Francisco Bay Area Rave Scene, 2002-2004

            *Eileen M Wu

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              Insurrection & Slave Rebellion in Civil War America

              July 24th, 2010 | 9 comments

              Black union soldiers taking aim.

              In The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom, Stephen Hahn makes the case for insurrection – if not a rethinking of rebellion – among Southern slaves during the American Civil War. The title of chapter two places this claim within the context of American history on the subject: “Did We Miss the Greatest Slave Rebellion in Modern History?” Hahn’s casually inclusive “we” invokes the primarily white American scholars who have sculpted something of a glorious history of the Civil War as America’s struggle against slavery. In this narrative – somewhat whitewashed – the Union North took up arms against the slave-owning Confederacy South, if not at first over slavery, then at least by the end of the war broadly claiming emancipation as its raison d’être.

              As Hahn is at delicate pains to point out, what this narrative presupposes is the passivity of the slave class (58; 160-161). Slaves have little or no agency in regards to their emancipation. While Northern African-Americans as well as freed southern slaves fought in the Civil War, southern slave plantations did not rise up against their white masters en masse. Why was this? Of course, Confederate mythology, exemplified in films such as D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, depicts a rose-tinted relationship between benevolent white masters and singin’ & dancin’ black slaves, both who view the Civil War as an invasion. Even among centrist, Abolitionist or integrationist accounts of the War, slaves were often praised for not rising up against the South. In their passivity, the Southern slaves demonstrated civility in this “white man’s war” — a war which was nothing less than a struggle over the fate of black labour.

              Hahn poses an alternative reading to the simplism in which passivity marked black patriotism. By contrast, Southern slaves were knowledgeable enough of the conditions of the War, as well as the tricky political terrain in which the War was fought – in short, aware of the ideological role of emancipation, and suspicious of the North’s apparent “freedom” – to carefully navigate between full-scale rebellion and widespread insurrection:

              Together, the evidence suggests that slaves could be acutely aware of conflicts that erupted between white people and nations ruled by white people; that slaves often imagined a set of possible allies and enemies; that slaves could be cognizant of the national and international struggle over slavery and the slave trade and, depending on where they resided, of momentous emancipations; that slaves often became conversant with institutions and issues of local and national politics and might develop sophisticated understandings of how the American political system operated; and that slaves fashioned interpretations of what seemed to be afoot, at times in ways that moved well beyond the intentions of the political actors. (Political Worlds 75)

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                the terrible community of financial capitalism

                July 14th, 2010 | 3 comments

                the terrible community of financial capital (spiral formation)

                IV. 2

                As post-authoritarian formations, the corporations of the “new economy” constitute terrible communities in the fullest sense.  And no one should see any contradiction in the similarity between capitalism’s avant-gardes and the avant-gardes of its opposition: they are both prisoners of the same economic principle, the same need for efficiency and organization, even if they set themselves up on different terrain.  They in fact serve the same modalities of the circulation of power, and in that sense they are politically quite near one another. Tiqqun, Theses on the Terrible Community

                In Tiqqun’s Theses on the Terrible Community [translation / French original], what is the terrible community? The community is an illusive circulation of isolated dividuals — subjects struck through with the schizophrenia of capital. Sacrifice holds it together, to an ideology or cause, be it for profit or for the people, and every terrible community revolves around a Leader. The terrible community can take many forms: a corporation is a terrible community, as is any workforce. In particular, Tiqqun seems to have in mind the activist community, or any anarchist squat, insofar as it projects itself as outside to, or at least resisting against, what Tiqqun calls democratic biopower. Yet the activist community just like the business community are both terrible communities, beholden to rituals of sacrifice, isolated existences, vertical hierarchies, and even worse, self-policing and self-censorship. I would like to ask Tiqqun (if they can be addressed) as to what they think of the branding of communities – the Muslim community, the gay community, etc. – in terms of their alleged coherency, unity and collective responsibility within the mediasphere of Spectacle.

                Tiqqun flattens all communities to the relations of their form.

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                  Contesting Civil War: Tiqqun & Agamben

                  June 30th, 2010 | 14 comments

                  Semiotext(e) have recently published the text Introduction to Civil War by the pseudonymous authorial collective Tiqqun. The text is number 4 of the Intervention series which has set for its mission the publication of recent works in political philosophy and political economy, including Christian Marazzi’s The Violence of Financial Capitalism (a crucial analysis of the recession) and The Invisible Committee’s manifesto of contemporary insurgency, The Coming Insurrection [download here].

                  These texts should not be taken lightly – or rather, these texts weigh heavily on the paranoia of the French state. In France, the alleged author(s) of The Coming Insurrection were violently arrested under “preemptive” measures that identified them as “pre-terrorists”. What is striking – and frightening – is that the Tarnac 9 by all accounts were not a revolutionary cell, but a small alternative commune living off the grid. Apparently such existence, outside of a few norms, is enough to invite the living nightmare of State hostility. Whether Julien Coupat wrote The Coming Insurrection is irrelevant. The text resonates with the zeitgeist that exploded in the banlieu riots of 2005. It is rightly anonymous as its claims are that of a world. Tiqqun’s Introduction to Civil War suggests the experience of the Tarnac 9:

                  Spectacle’s genius is to have acquired a monopoly over qualifications, over the act of naming. With this in hand, it can then smuggle in its metaphysics and pass of the products of its fraudulent interpretations as facts. Some act of social war gets called a “terrorist act,” while a major intervention by NATO, initiated through the most arbitrary process, is deemed a “peacekeeping operation.” Mass poisonings are described as epidemics, while the “High Security Wing” is the technical term used in our democracies’ prisons for the legal practice of torture. Tiqqun is, to the contrary, the action that restores to each fact its how, of holding this how to be the only real there is. (Civil War §82: 189).

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                    exodus & afrofuturism

                    June 17th, 2010 | 5 comments

                    interstellar tones transport Sun Ra offworld

                    But in reality, it is the inherent failure of representation, both in the visual and the political sense, that continually leads activist-artists to abandon their works and their familiar skills, and to dissolve once again into the intersubjective processes of society’s self-transformation.

                    This moment of dissolution is where one could locate exodus, not as a concept, but as a power or a myth of resistance. On the one hand, exodus is a pragmatic response to the society of control, in which any widespread political opposition becomes an object of exacting analysis for those who can afford to invest major resources in the identification, segmentation and manipulation of what we naively call the public. In the face of these strategies, exodus is a power of willful metamorphosis: the capacity for a movement to appear, to intervene and to disappear again, before changing names and recommencing the same struggle in a different way. (Brian Holmes, Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering @ 185)

                    Exodus is a movement — defection from the State, exit from the state of things, toward the formation of a “new republic” (as Paolo Virno puts it). While Virno and other Italian-based theorists of the Autonomia/Operaismo movement have traced exodus as a response to the factory regime of Fordist labour that saw its dismantling in the ’70s and ’80s, Brian Holmes has placed exodus within the artistic lineage of interventions and occupations, in which the fluidity of art, and of art as an occupation or role offers an exit strategy from institutionalized engagement. Holmes’ historical references are those of the alterglobalization movement, notably the public sonic occupations of Reclaim the Streets and the deployment of carnivale tactics in general, but also in specific art projects such as Nikeground. Here, art (and the artist) move through an interzone of activism and art, a zone in which intervention and representation are no longer distinct sides or sites of the work.

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