Posts Tagged ‘new dumb’

technics & decrepit democracy

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

 

Will the 41st Canadian Election see the return of the youth vote? The previous election in 2008 saw the lowest voter turnout in the nation’s history, especially among youth.

So far the “youth” I’ve heard interviewed by the CBC—university students all—appear somewhat clueless. Is the uneducated, unengaged, uncaring countenance portrayed by national media an accurate sign of general malaise amongst the under-25 crowd? Or does it merely show that reporters still don’t know who to talk to on campus, avoiding the radicals hanging around the campus and community radio station, passing by the scribes at the student newspaper, ignoring the offices of student politicians, all in the vain hope for some kind of “average student” as somehow synonymous with the general (which is to say, non-voting) populace?

Such strategies only serve to reinforce the narrow perspectives of ageism. Yet something nags at the contemporary image of Canadian youth—a striking absence from the landscape, as if youth had once and for all become the niche-market consumers they were programmed to be since birth. A lack of rebellion pervades a youth generation that appears completely infatuated by the technics of consumerism and always-on communication. A pastiche of postmodern style has stagnated into over a decade of hipsterism that drags on & on without reinvention nor cultural innovation. Music regurgitates itself without push nor force. Meanwhile, this cultural merry-go-round—a kind of cyclism of rehashed styles—rotates around an absent pillar: that of youth displeasure and rebellion against the controlling interests of the nation-state. In the ’90s Naomi Klein and Adbusters writ about rebellion as bought & sold as an advertising strategy. Today we talk about the absence of even such strategies. It is as if an election and the workings of democracy are a disposable communicative fragment that, moreover, is denigrated as one particle stream amongst all others. The election, like a text message from a nagging parent, is easily deleted, without even the dignity of a NO LIKE button.

Cryptofascism & the Uncitizenry

Indeed, it is tempting to argue that no rebellion can exist in such a fragmented existence wherein the nation-state and its democratic apparatus are reduced to hollow signs that have no virtual presence on social networks. There is no rebellion not because youth don’t care; there is no rebellion because youth live in a world created and catered through info-filtering mechanisms tailored so precisely to predict and provide for their consumer and erotic impulses that the practice of democratic choice has no place within it. One can LIKE but one cannot not like; there is no choice per se, only the metrics of one-way desire. Two questions:

(1) Are youth inculcated in a new form of choice that negates choice—which is to say a nonchoice—in which decision-making can only form either a favourable mark  (LIKE) but not its expressed DISLIKE? Moreover, is this merely a “youth” phenomenon? Is this not simply the one-way directive of desire that has become pronounced in social networks?

(2) There is no VOTE app on Facebook nor for the iPhone. Mediated existence, though it registers the metrics of LIKE that appear seemingly everywhere, does not contain a voting sphere. There is no choice in this patterning towards a one-way metrics of desire. Everything appears just for you, me, them: this is how Facebook works with its pyramidal-style News Filter, where that which is LIKED is repeated, reiterated, regurgitated. The new falls by the wayside, the repetition of the same LIKE becomes the horizon of mediated existence of LIKE-LIKE discourse. One never encounters the Other…. is voting now foreign to the discourse engendered by social networks?

This perceptive difference of what the world is—not only its being but its discourse of desire in relation to it, its ontology of technics and urgency—and how it appears for me—its perceptive alignment with implanted consumer desire, what might be called the cryptofascism of corporate perception—suggests a near impasse in engaging any 21st century technological citizen with the centuries-old processes of democratic involvement that require movement, thought and a mark. There is no rebellion because the world itself appears appetizing, as if all communication is geared solely toward un/conscious appetites and ego. It is tailored and remade to appear as-such. All the time. And it is. Desire is an App. An App is an expression of controlling desire. I LIKE the App. I LIKE what is desired (for me).

As the voice of pop radio, Auto-Tune is there for the confusing identity siege that is junior high. Faheem Rasheed is T-Pain. T-Pain is Auto-Tune. Auto-Tune is a vocoder. (T-Pain said so.) I am T-Pain is an App. You are T-Pain. T-Pain is a brand. No sooner did Jay-Z call for Auto-Tune’s head after seeing Wendy’s use it to sell a Frosty, than Apple made the I Am T-Pain app available for $2.99. As demonstrated on the Champion DJ track, “Baako,” babies can now be Auto-Tuned before reaching intelligibility (Dave Tompkins, How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop @ 302).

Do I, LIKE? This App? Instead of being ignored, youth—a category no longer of age but of consumer uncitizenry, which is to say, humans who only participate in collective processes through consumption and discourse with corporatized social networks—feel that with social networks and mobile communications that they, each and every one, are the centre of all attention. Uncitizens command and demand—not from their nation-states, but from their corporations, and what they demand is the short-term satisfaction of their pleasures. Nothing is easier to deliver. And when it goes wrong, there is no recourse. One cannot UNLIKE anything. As for voting? This unlikely process might be dismantled in time too.

The State Without Desire

The tactics of consumption, the ingenious ways in which the weak make use of the strong, thus lend a political dimension to everyday practices (Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life @ xvii)

At the limit, what do today’s uncitizens expect from the nation-state? Nothing; it does not exist as-such—which is to say as a metric of consumer desire—for them. The nation-state passes into the realm of the hyponoumenal or unsensible. Thus its dismantling appears favourable; why keep what is not an object of desire?

Competing interests to democratic governance play this absence of desire with astute aim: utilising communications media, the absence of desire toward the participatory democracy (neither LIKE nor anything otherwise) is re-presented—advertised, talked up, played out; tweeted, linked, screamed—as an object of DISLIKE. If one’s existence is constellated within online social networks, being presented with democracy as an object of DISLIKE offers the first significant chance to render choice as-such through the expression of concrete negativity. Yet desire here is rendered by proxy: I express DISLIKE, and a “real choice,” only to dismantle its mechanism as-such. The first expression of democratic engagement is self-defeating. DISLIKE is voted through as the dismantling of the system that perpetuates and organises the benefits to be derived from voting.

This is how normative politics emphasizes—and for lack of a better word, pronounces hysterical—the glut of bureaucracy, engaging in a shrill and strident discourse that reiterates tirelessly that hand-outs must stop, that everything from arts grants to education and health care must be reduced or eliminated outright in order to allow the play of the “free market.”

Such normative political interests—which are, at their worst, organised expressions against democratic governance—build not upon an engaged citizenry seeking libertarian governance and a minimalist State, but merely run with the absence of any such desire concerning the State. Such an absence of desire one way or the other allows corporate systems of production to occupy the role once previously held by the State, yet without any such safeguards nor protections offered under democratic governance. Several factors come into play here. Consumerism perpetuates the myth that the “market” provides for all desires (which is to say, it fails to provide what remains necessary , and certainly it does not ensure the equitable benefits of the common wealth). Meanwhile, the technics of perception in which uncitizens engage with the social network aligns desire with socially networked consumerism. Desire is directed toward a ceaseless flow of objects and data (either LIKED or absented in response). The nation-state and its apparatuses do not exist in this realm; they are negated a priori. Is it any surprise that their political expression is thus one of outright negation of the infrastructure of democratic engagement?

We are dealing with borderline technological determinism and worst-case scenarios evidently of the speculative sort. Yet the traces are evident.

A party wishing to capitalize upon this corporatized technics of perception only has to shape a negative platform which satisfies this urge to ignore (if not eliminate) democratic governance completely. At the same time, this grants free reign to the controlling interests of a cryptofascist party (corporate funded) that would capitalize upon the new blindness of an uncitizenry that quite literally has its head down, eyes locked to the mobile screen, while everywhere (and yet oddly, for this perspective, nowhere), the beneficial conditions of collective existence are dismantled (elimination, defunding, privatization).

One must consider the darkest of strategies—that the cryptofascist core is centralizing its power and mobilizing control over resources to ensure its survival as the planet’s environment becomes increasingly unsustainable. This is social Darwinism. These controlling interests have done so by utilising the nonengagement of stagnant democracy to perpetuate the latter’s destruction, thereby catapulting the narrow-sphere of the self-interested to power.

If one were to look for the new collectivism, it only appears in two places:

(1) In that of cryptofascism. The “unite the right” slogan is indeed a crafty strategy to ensure an insider-outsider urge to join those who are successful in attaining power through whatever means possible. The majority of such hangers-on are seekign entry into the corridors of power, and do not realise that they will forever be denied (witness Harper’s controlled campaign appearances). In short, centre-right Liberals voted Conservative so as to “get in on a good thing.” Time to cash in & forget the others. Yet this is only one part of the strategy; the second part is amassing votes from those who believe in positions that are, in fact, executed in their obverse. That neoConservatives spend more than their “socialist” competitors—usually on militarization and imprisonment—is a fact oft ignored by those voting neoConservative so as to support fiscal conservatism. Likewise, “lower” taxes are designated for corporations, not the lower-middle class (and “ethnic”) voters who swing Conservative. A basic failure to grasp actual factual conditions prevails; at its worst, this is the rise of the New Dumb.

(2) As for the second collectivism, it forms as counterposition to the Right. In Canada this polarization has collectivized around the NDP, which has formed the Official Opposition in Parliament. In itself, the rise of a declared Leftist party signals hope—for those seeking democratic engagement—and yet, also concern over an American-style polarization of the spectrum in which both sides descend into a politics of the very worst. The centre has fallen out, and its contents spilled out in two directions. Most of its contents spilled Left; the NDP gained 65 seats while the Conservatives gained 24. Yet can the collectivist action behind the NDP sustain itself in Canada’s volatile political landscape? In a situation where still-separatist Quebec holds the trump card with its NDP “orange crush”? In a mediasphere where the probable axing of the CBC will result in further attack ads and tarnishing of the NDP as the Conservatives strive for absolute power by ushering in Harper’s Media Centre?

We are here again speaking of the engaged and those who voted—only about 61.4% of the eligible voters. Unless mobilization occurs in the voting sphere, it will be a shock indeed when the uncitizen pokes his or her head up and realises there is nothing left for them. That all which is for me is now merely a waste of words. That the world itself has been sold off….

Millenial Malaise and the Resurgence of Generations X & Y

One cannot rebel against that which is nonsignifying, which is to say, against that which is not only imperceptible, but quite simply off the radar of desire. The Green Party experienced this precisely this election. Off-the-radar, out-of-the-debate. Unrepresented. A non-object. The nation-state is not an App. It has no status update. The psychosocial dimension of this malaise is the persistence of boredom in an always-on environment. Or rather, teenage-era forms of rebellion have solidified as technico-ontological frameworks of perception amongst young “adults”: pronounced boredom through ceaseless consumption—until debt do us a part; general malaise of the uncitizen as precarious part-time work provides a deadening of stimulation; distracted nonattention as competing virtual environments promise the collectivity which is everywhere destroyed in the concrete; and a lack of engagement becoming a performative lifeworld of “not caring cool.”

Too bad that’s the formula for getting fucked over by the big bulge of the population. The boomers, who increasingly vote for their own aging interests, privatize health care and dismantle social services, all in an effort to keep their own taxes low, and all at the expense of future generations, a.k.a. today’s youth vote.

Do Millenials even realise how badly they’re getting screwed by their own parents and grandparents? Apparently not; it’s not a tweet meme, hashtag, nor status update. VICE magazine covered it years ago, but that’s Gen-X & Y critique circa 2005. The Millenials missed it.

Conventional wisdom says that engaged youth primarily vote on social issues, with a strong tendency to vote NDP. Keeping down the youth vote has been a strategy of the neoConservatives since day one—as witnessed with the brownshirt tactic of disrupting advance polling (as was the case at the University of Guelph).

Yet survey data shows that the NDP surge in Quebec has little to do with the youth vote. If correct, this data tosses the conventional wisdom that once you “grow up and start paying taxes,” you vote only for your narrow self-interest, and thus brainlessly throw your vote in with any party that promises a lowering of taxes. It also demonstrates the increasing power—and here I hedge a thetic guess—of Generation X & Y.

The return of the rave generation & post-punk politics

Generation X, whether bitter ex-punks or Douglas Coupland’s cocaine-fuelled cubicle kids, have long been ignored under the heel of the boomers. Gen Y, the rave generation, has seen its entire musico-cultural expression criminalized and erased from the history books. Both generations were the last vestiges of inspired rebellion from the ’60s; these are the generations of the APEC and Quebec City protests, of Clayoquot Sound, of mass rave culture and its collectivist pursuits. It was Generation Ecstasy that brought the dark rebellion of rave culture into the light, organising Reclaim The Streets, the rise of “carnivals against capitalism,” providing the organisational capacity and infrastructure for the alterglobalization movement that brought down Seattle and Genoa. Gen X & Y are the generations of hackers, hacktivists, DiY-zine producers and internet utopians, Burning Man freaks, DJs and musicians, artists who fled to Montréal (and Berlin), the generation of mass energy throughout the ’80s and ’90s that, in a word, connected Lollapalooza to Woodstock, alterglobalization anticapitalist carnival to May ’68, rave culture to the Happening & Be-In.

Is this generation beginning to find itself? Its rave-era participants possess an uncanny organisational capacity—could it be directed toward reinvigorating the institutional Left? Overtaking it entirely? Are these generations beginning to vote en masse? Will new forms of party politics arise from these much more complex political landscapes of late-night bohemians that nonetheless have tasted the freedom of the TAZ?

Evidently there are splits within the boomer demographic as well. The incumbent party that supposedly stands for fiscal conservatism—Canada’s delightful neoConservatives—has pursued a massive increase in military expenditure, including 30 billion dollars over 30 years on fighter jets (and without cost-saving measures of competitive contracts). The Conservatives have racked up the largest deficit in Canadian history, some 55.6 billion. Harper’s promise of fiscal conservatism is, moreover, encoded within a right-wing moral conservatism based upon fundamentalist Christian beliefs, including Stephen Harper’s involvement as a founding member of the pro-apartheid, pro-South Africa, pro-white Northern Foundation in the late 1980s (see more research on these connections here). The signs are everywhere of increasing neoConservative strategies: Conservative defunding of Planned Parenthood, and other indications of religious fundamentalists being placed in positions of power over, say, the portfolio of science and technology.

Like, the Youth?

As for the youth? A good point is made here, that winning the youth vote begins with respect. According to blogger AW Reeves, political parties need to

talk about urban issues and green infrastructure; building better public transportation and supporting the arts; the importance of local and healthy food; of civic engagement, political participation, and the importance of taking pride in where you live (AW Reeves).

In short, the issues of youth are, perhaps, more progressive and varied than those of mere education. I agree. I would’ve said the same in the mid-1990s when Generation Y came into the age of majority, but hey, we were too busy organising on cultural and political levels an entire collectivist movement of alterglobalization and electroniculture. And still, many voted. Or loudly protested its lack of options. However, it is worth noting that education is always defunded in proportion to the neoConservative increase in prisons. Education is a broader issue than just youth; it has to do with creating and sustaining an enlightened citizenry. Without it, we usher in the Tea Party mentality of the New Dumb. Is this not a neoConservative strategy?

That Reeve’s optimism is tempered by his observation that seniors are a better bet strategically for enterprising political parties—”seniors have a stronger sense of the importance of voting, and more time on their hands typically”—only suggests yet more reasons to ignore the youth vote. Youth are the future of democracy, and always will be. In the ’60s the boomers understood their strength in numbers, which was repressed, it would seem, only through sheer violence (Kent State, COINTELPRO, assassination and imprisonment of activists) and over-indulgence (the excesses of the ’60s drug culture). While the Millenials do not exist as strength in sheer numbers, they can tip the scales if they vote.

But is it feasible to expect an engagement with the papertrails and processes of democracy by a generation only connected through its disconnection, otherwise untouched by the concrete? The infiltration of existence by technical means of capture, screens & devices that effectively “capture consciousness,” has meant that an entirely new sphere of bubble-world existence is the new technico-ontological state of Millenial desire. And the highly powerful yet seemingly invisible nation-state does not appear within this social radar of the captured consumer kids—at least not until the VOTE APP.

The Black Box of Control

Indeed, why not a VOTE APP? The answer remains resoundingly negative for all the reasons the white hat hackers of 2600 have exposed concerning the control mechanisms contained within electronic voting machines (which probably delivered Florida on a few occasions for Bush) as well as the lack of security, transparency and accountability once information is rendered digital.

This suggests that, quite profoundly, democracy is a fleshy and breast-to-breast encounter, if even with the ballot slip. Its effort of engagement underscores its significance to the collective capacity of discourse and organisation that sustains the nation-state. Like, dude, one cannot VOTE by hitting the LIKE button.

../…. .

when the night was young

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

we had dreams / when the night was young
we were believers / when the night was young
we could change the world / stop the war
never seen nothing like this before
that was back / when the night was young

—Robbie Robertson, “When The Night Was Young” (2011)

In this wasteland of democratic vision known as the Harper Government, previously the nation state of Canada, only 60% of Canadians vote. The absentee 40% is disproportionately composed of youth. Where are they?

Well, besides the hopelessly lost millenials that are either too busy making videos of themselves online doing dirty things and/or otherwise engaged in some form of chat/text relationship that involves staring at a tiny screen for hours on end, there are engaged youth, and not only that, politically active and organised youth. Plenty of them. So then, which national party courts the largest youth support? The NDP? The Liberals? The new, young, suit & tie neoChristian Conservatives? Nay indeed, it’s the Green Party, which received a million votes nationwide and yet whose leader, Elizabeth May, has been barred from tonight’s national debate of party leaders.

What are the psychosocial reasons for barring the Green Party from national politics? What reasoning could be so strong as to bring together a “unanimous” decision from all encumbered political parties and media organisations, including the “liberal biased” CBC?

Let us restate the question: which element of the population is currently the dominant social group (and has been for generations), wielding vast ownership of economic assemblages and thus over political lobbying? The boomers. United as youth radicals, they are now apparently united as self-defenders of their own narrow interests. Or: the hippies are now aging potheads/growers in the Islands, and what’s left are the squareheads who missed the ’60s and, through attrition and devious underhanded support from the old Establishment, have come in to grasp the reins.

Whatever the case, the old boomers are voting only for their aging interests. And like their parents, they are also silencing youth electoral politics. The boomers have easily adjusted to their role as the new Establishment in ousting the Greens.

For the past 15 years, the fattest population swell in the Western hemisphere has retained its socioeconomic power by refusing to retire. Boomers are keeping jobs, claiming pensions and eating up health care. At the same time, a significant proportion of boomers want privatization of Canada’s health care system—at the expense of their own (grand)children. To paraphrase VICE from a few years back, the burden of their pampered lives will cost everyone else for the foreseeable future to-come. Welcome to Generation Mess.

And so all the major parties are courting the boomers. Doing whatever it takes.

For the children of the boomers, if this great game of appeasing the aging & empowered continues, there will be no pension plan, no healthcare, and no job security unless changes are made. There will also be no attempt to address climate change, but I digress. Steps to combat narrow-interested ageism need to happen by upsetting the current balance of power in the political arena. And this arena, thanks to the unanimous consortium of boomer interests, has been cordoned off into a 4-ring circus of the boomer elite. Without the Green Party, there is no representation of youth voters. And without youth voters, there is little hope for the future of democratic process in Canada. And with that, Canada has been sold hook, line & sinker to the greater behemoth—the global powers of corporatism and untethered greed. For the boomers will sell all, souls included, just to live a little longer. Water? Privatize it with P3. Health care? Dismantle & privatize. Two-tiers, of course, with the best for rich boomers, and the dregs for everyone else. FOX news loves it. So does Sarah Palin.

By the time the boomers finally pass on, the state of the state will be a sorry one indeed. Progressive politics, forward-thinking positions that eschew left/right to seek solutions to the great problems of our time, environmental, economic, social and technological, that require studied approaches that remix socialist, anarcho-libertarian, conservative and liberal playbooks, and that seek coalition-building rather than belligerent name-calling—indeed all the various ways in which the Green Party confounds Canada’s dull spectrum of mainstream parties will be forced to take a back seat to the narrow interests of increasingly conservative agendas—based upon doctrines of fear & panic—as long as the fat & aging swell of the population exercises their narrow ageism over the vast diversity of Canadians.

And that is what I learned years ago from Geography 112 (and a certain Mr. Fadum of IB Geography—but I digress, again). And nothing, unfortunately, has changed, except that all of us now are getting older. And by the time that whomever is left with patience and strength from the following generations grabs the tired reigns of this state, it will be be a smoldering shadow, indeed, of what once was.

 

 

to punish & humiliate

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

The Brits understand that the basic purpose of comedy is not to delight or entertain, it’s to punish and humiliate. It’s to “make sport” and get as close to getting punched in the face as possible. Despite the general squalor of that country, they are still kind of the experts on certain aspects of western culture. [ Robyn Marshal ]

.. commenting on Ricky Gervais, who began with this in 2010:

Given free reign in 2011:

More to be said on Gervais’ ability to humiliate & punish with restraint in near equal amounts.

multitude & moloch

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The evil within is worse than that without

For awhile I thought the inferences I had been drawing – of an unevenly distributed but nonetheless disastrous collapse of democratic institutions, from the precarization of labour to the corporatization of the university – were in part the afterglow of reading deep into the analyses and experiences of all-out totalitarianism. I had just completed Harrison Salisbury’s The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, which had me imagining not only the horrors of war, but the horrors of a paranoid dictatorship seemingly incapable of recognising the danger in its midst, caught instead in a ceaseless and senseless purge of its own people…

The siege of Leningrad, which killed some 1.5 million through forced starvation alone, could not only have been avoided if Stalin had acted upon the early warning signs of Germany’s treachery, but was further compounded by Stalin’s paranoia, which froze independent thought and action among his generals and armed forces, paralyzing the defence of the Soviet Union from the Nazi blitzkrieg. Besides the fact that Stalin failed to heed the many reports and indications that Nazi Germany was amassing an army ready to annihilate the Soviet Union, the Kremlin politics of Stalin and his right-hand man Police Chief Beria ensured that the many who valiantly defended Leningrad, from the upper military echelons to the lower, as well as the many who sought to memorialize its tragedy, from artists to playwrights, from officers to museum directors and staff, were purged from within while the city was laid waste from without…

For years I have been reading William L. Shirer on the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Seven years ago nearly to the month, I began conducting historical studies on the topic, writing of some of it briefly in this post and here. Much has changed. At the time the figures involved were media supercaricatures, with the terrorist-fighting superduo of Bush and Blair paired up neatly against the evil  outlaws, the mysteriously invisible Bin Laden and the poster-boy of evil, Saddam Hussein. These supercaricatures rendered cartoon-like the embodied power of the sovereign even as their power operated, like classic Roadrunner cartoons of seemingly innocuous violence, through the politics of fear. To this end Massumi and Dean’s analyses of Reagan, the actor-president, the fiction of sovereignty – as the “Last Emperor” – proved uncanny and useful.

Each supercaricature had its trading-card qualities. Bush seemed so incredibly inept, so affable and stupid, that the violence of his gesture and the menace of his speech were all the more amplified. Bin Laden, gentle and effeminate, articulate and seemingly intelligent, was all the more horrific for he had successfully used his wealth to spawn a terrorist network that would live on even if he, as the head, was decapitated. Hussein was the most pitiful of them all. Dressed in the trappings of his ornamental uniform and adorned with the dictatorial moustache, Hussein the egoist tyrant seemingly never understood what he had done to upset his friends the United States, whom had previously supported his regime in the war against Iran. When Hussein was pulled from his hiding hole like a rat from the sewers, he had become a cartoon of power, and a convenient bogeyman for the noose.

The mad, mad multitude

Now it is not the supercaricature that rules the day. Rather, it is the undefined, faceless mass, the screaming, nonsensical, overabundance of flesh that weighs among the shouting many, the madding crowd, gun-toting, SUV-driving, flag-waving patriots, mouth agape, eyes angry and yet — so vacant, so devoid of worldliness. We are indeed witnessing the clash of the uncivilizations, whether it be a crowd of clerics screaming for the stoning of a women accused of dishonour because she was raped, or the mad yelling and gun-brandishing of Tea Partiers demanding that income tax be rescinded so that they can… so they can what exactly?

(more…)

“cultural fascism”

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

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.

(more…)

The Rise of the New Dumb

Friday, October 29th, 2010

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.