Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Media porn 

Often I think the image-stream that AmCop was founded to wallow in has been exhaustively understood. I think we made good progress in our analysis of Bush's power residing precisely in the fact that his reality is manifestly of shit; the "president-image" is all the more powerful when it can be so loosely affixed to shit and still manage to elevate the shit to world-leadership. And then there were our more recent points about the way the image stream makes persons in it seem unreal, thereby seducing us into projecting our desires upon them, and at the same time inviting resentment and the hope that the degenerate behind the image is eventually exposed.

Frequently I think that there is not much point in examining and thinking about the image stream, because its mechanism has been grasped. Better to think about other things, better to focus on living an actual life. Still, as the phantasmagoria thickens and intensifies, it seems that new insights announce themselves with disturbing regularity.

It may be that the writings of Elfriede Jelinek offer such insights. Apparently, we'll never know unless we speak German, because the English translations are unreadable. But she's taken up the case of the Austrian "monster" who raped and imprisoned his daughter, and connected it to the media straitjacket in which we all operate. Her ideas sound very interesting.

One thing that strikes me is her emphasis on the pornographic quality of virtually all media imagery. The psycho-sexual element of contemporary politics is an abyss that needs to be plumbed. The commensurability of Britney images, TMZ reports, Iraq exposes, Abu Ghraib photo caches, hookers, porn downloads, HuffPost entertainment pages, etc., etc., does indeed seem to drive into the deeper darkness some kind of quivering, mutilated soul, screaming in silence. Inevitably the soul of a child or of a woman.

Here is a quotation from a very good essay at the London Review of Books on Jelinek:

‘Austria is a small world in which the big world holds its rehearsal.’ With the first sentence of her essay, Jelinek directs us back to the central question posed by Amstetten [where the incest/imprisonment occurred] which is not how Austrian is this story but how universal. Put another way, how many of the men who read the Guardian or the Sun are currently abusing their children, beating up their wives and girlfriends, paying for sex with prostitutes or downloading hardcore porn at home in the middle of the night or in the office in the middle of the afternoon? And are we to see these and related forms of behaviour as discrete points on a scale that has Maxim magazine at one end and Josef Fritzl at the other, or do they make up a continuum along which, under the right conditions, we might find ourselves sliding?

An answer of sorts stares out at us from the pages of the Sun, in that movement from page one to page three which millions of British men make without a second thought every day of the week, the movement from ‘dungeon incest monster fritzl, 73’ to Keeley from Bromley, 21 going on 15 (could be your daughter, wish she was): pink and pouting Keeley, doe-eyed, golden-haired and full-breasted, only two loosely tied bikini strings away from full fantasy possession – complete with instructions on how to download her to your mobile phone (‘available on all networks except Virgin’). There is a difference of degree of course, but Keeley from Bromley, like Elisabeth Fritzl, is caught in a room in the male psyche, a place which, like the world below ground in Amstetten, exists outside time.

In the same week that the Fritzl story broke, Deutsche Bank, like other banks keen to signal belt-tightening in the wake of the global credit crunch, circulated a memo saying that from now on executives were not to charge adult film downloads to their expense accounts. At the time of the Nobel Prize, Jelinek was asked whether she thought feminism had made any significant gains over the years. Nothing, she said, would lead one to suppose that it had.

I have a feeling that an HRC presidency would not have done a lick of good for the feminism espoused by Jelinek. The old line from conservatives against second-wave feminism was that it was fighting to make women free ... to be like men. Certainly women should be free to pursue success and power as men have done -- second-wave feminism was right to demand this, and the old conservative line was usually a cop-out. But it is not totally untrue -- and the case of HRC shows it. Whatever she has become, it is not a virtuous woman. She has successfully mutilated and imprisoned whatever soul she had. Of course it is unfair for people to be more disgusted with Clinton than with much worse men who have mutilated themselves and others far more severely. Still, there is a special kind of repulsiveness in Clinton yoking her warmongering and race-baiting to the historical fate of women worldwide. [It's repulsive in the way it is repulsive to see Lieberman claim to honor the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust -- a suffering which is still everywhere around us and has not even begun to be grasped -- by advocating for the concentration and detention of Palestinians.]

Radical feminism in the future will, I think, have to make heard the lost souls of the media-pornographic-state apparatus. That won't just be a matter of rewarding the victims with the chance to buy their own porn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Artwork of the day: "Winds of Change" 

In case you ever find yourself in the Houston airport... excuse me, the George Bush airport... sorry, the George Bush Intercontinental airport... as I did this past weekend on a layover from Tucson, you might stumble upon this statue located about midway down the C terminal.

It's a man, seemingly forged out of bronze, or perhaps carved out of milk chocolate, or maybe slapped together out of poo, standing erect, jacket flung rakishly over his shoulder, a jaunty/swishy lean in the left knee, while clutching a book. Meanwhile, a mighty wind whips his tie and jacket to windsock stiffness, as he gazes proudly (squints myopically?) into the middle distance (which in this terminal is approximately a taco joint and a "Fox News Channel" store).

The man? The airport's namesake, George H.W. Bush. The illuminated displays behind him? An illustrated chronicle of the Bush family's achievements. The work's title? "Winds of Change."


Monday, May 26, 2008

Appalachia's Problem 

Old woods and deep.  At one time in the world there were woods that no one owned and these were like them.  [Ballard] passed a windfelled tulip poplar on the moutainside that held aloft in the grip of its roots two stones the size of fieldwagons, great tablets on which was writ only a tale of vanished seas with ancient shells in cameo and fishes etched in lime.  Ballard among gothic treeboles, almost jaunty in the outsized clothing he wore, fording drifts of kneedeep snow, going along the south face of a limestone bluff beneath which birds scratching in the bare earth paused to watch.

They sent niggers.  That's who I sold to.  Sold to em three times.  One of em set right there in that chair and drunk a pint.  Drunk it and got up and walked out and got in the car.  I don't see how he done it.  He might of drove for all I know.  They caught everybody.  Got old lady Bright up in Cocke County even and she's been sellin whiskey non stop since fore I was born.  
Ballard leaned and spat into a can sitting in the floor.  Well, fuck it, he said.
I sure would of never thought about them sendin niggers, said Kirby.

--Cormac McCarthy, Child of God

It's interesting, isn't it, that "Appalacia" has a "problem" with Obama.  I think this is a compelling and puzzling phenomenon that deserves substantial analysis and exploration; I look forward to teams of sociologists and anthropologists helping us, via the news media, come to a fuller and richer understanding of this "problem" in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Except, of course, that there is no problem, and there is no mystery.  

Appalachians, because they're white and poor--and because of a specific history, in which economic exploiters have created the worst kinds of racial antagonism (e.g., bringing in African Americans as scabs during mining strikes)--because of this, they're not going to fucking vote for a black president.

Say what you will about Appalachians.  There was a terrific diary on DailyKos a few weeks ago that shed a lot of light on these strange, pale creatures, and made an excellent argument that they deserve our respect, solidarity and help, not our condescension and disdain and ridicule.

I get my Appalacian info from the novelist Cormac McCarthy (just like I get my Mississippi info from Faulkner: among the various members of the Compson family and their "staff," the Bundrens, the Snopes et al, I know just about everybody I need to know).  So I know that Appalacians are an isolated, proud, decent, cunning, strong, stubborn people--they're up against some unforgiving geography, creepy neighbors, a postindustrial culture that could give a shit and a economic system that only sees these folks insofar as it can fuck them/suck their lifeblood.

I also know that some of them have a penchant for incest and, at times, necrophelia.  Can it be denied?  No.  I mean, what are you gonna do?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Amcop Memorial Day Odious Comparison Index 

Countries ahead of the 97th ranked US in the Global Peace Index. The GPI purports to measure the relative peacefulness of the world's organized violence machi...er...nation-states:

Serbia - 85
Bolivia - 78
Rwanda - 76
Syria - 75
China - 67
Cuba - 62
Libya - 61
Nicaragua - 59
Vietnam - 37
France - 36

Hey, at least we beat Iran (105) and Venezuela (123). Those barbarians.


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