Do you remember when we used to go and dance at those punk rock shows/it feels so…long ago/do you remember that night when that skinhead threatened me with my life/ you should have realized right then…that something…something went quite right/we were just teenagers, looking for a scene/based upon simplistic notions of equality/oh ain’t it a fucker when you discover fuck when you discover that it’s all based upon slightly altered versions of the same old crap. —The Casual Terrorist
Nine Theses/Nine Lives
1. When did the Enlightenment die? 2. What I really mean is, When did the Enlightenment die for the left? 3. (And I don’t mean the so-called “White Jacobin” left, the left of white terror, which takes as a pseudo-Leninist occasion the alt-right mainstreaming of Foucault and the Thule Society to declare themselves the sole bearers of the torch of the Sokal Affair: though naturally there’s always a bridge, a hallucinogenic path, between fascism and the Enlightenment, and that bridge could be called John Locke or Jorge Luis Borges, Vilfredo Pareto or Peter Thiel’s hemophilia).
Un village français, a French television serial, was first broadcast on France 3 in 2009; the channel began showing the serial’s seventh and final season in October of 2016, and at the end of its run sixty-six episodes had been broadcast. Around the time it first appeared a Francophone friend recommended it as startlingly good TV, but warned that subtitled versions other than one season with French subtitles had proved impossible to locate. The belated appearance of a version subtitled in English is a very welcome gift. Along with the policier Engrenages, which stars several of the same actors, Un village français made even malevolent foreigners concede that French TV, under de Gaulle sometimes pilloried as a medium specializing in documentaries about beehives, had no reason to fear comparison to any televisual culture in the world.
The author of the following post is C.E.O. of BlocPower—a black enterprise that cultivates green energy projects in under-served communities. (BlocPower is a business that’s shaped by a social commitment: “at every point in our value chain we seek out and hire underemployed workers from vulnerable communities.”)
One of my favorite sermons by Dr. King is called “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.” It starts: “A French philosopher once said that ‘No man is so strong unless he bears within his character antitheses strongly marked’…
The music video above, in which an African emigre duo who call themselves A.M.G. extol Putin, seems to soundtrack Nathan Osborne’s musings on the link between contemporary rap and Trumpery. But there are (always) countervailing trends in the hip hop nation as you’ll see if you try videos in the body of this text by Big K.R.I.T.—a rapper from the Dirty South. He makes conscious music for our mess age: “I don’t rap, I spit hymns.” K.R.I.T. stands for King Remembered In Time. (A.M.G.’s initials, OTOH, are associated with the Mercedes logo.)
Donald Trump is the greatest Rapper of all time. He’s the G.O.A.T. precisely because he doesn’t even have to rap. “Well, how then is he a rapper? It says here in Webster’s…” I don’t mean to be a tease. And please don’t assume I’m suggesting that he’s a rapper chiefly due to his misogyny or his nasty language. But, to move forward, let’s go back a bit…
From an academic conference at Yale: We’re used to Donald Trump punctuating his pronouncements with a quick “OK?” as if to simultaneously block any disagreement and reassure himself that he’s right.
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Trumpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
After 9/11, I wrote a piece called “Risk of Contamination” for Brendan Lemon, who was then the editor of Out Magazine. In the essay I compared the way fear of the female body as a contaminating agent of maleness operated in both western and eastern philosophies and practices. I said a crisis in the concept of masculinity in both the east and the west was endangering the world, and I said this crisis in the concept of masculinity linked geo-political factions that otherwise saw themselves as enemies.
I feel a need to review these ideas.
“Those who complain murderously about the New York Times ought to be shot.” I’m stuck on that old line of George Trow’s, which amps up my fear of undercutting real news organizations in the Age of Trump.
“The bigger issue here is why Trump and people around him take such a radically different view of Russia than has been the case for decades.” (New York Times, 2/16/2017)
No doubt. But when it comes to Trump’s philo-Tsarist turn (and the Republican Party’s “surprise surrender”), the time-scale cited above (“decades”) fails to take in the full weight of the past: “Hostility to Russia is the oldest continuous foreign-policy tradition in the United States…”
I remember as a kid, aged eight or nine, watching The Apprentice on TV with my mom. I went to a Christian school (fundamentalist Baptist), so it seemed like something we weren’t supposed to be watching, but who doesn’t have their harmless little sins?
Lucille told me not to come in the kitchen. In my young days when I wanted to watch her slice vegetables and pluck chickens, she warned: “This is no place for the likes of you. I’m telling you, standing next to me at this counter won’t get you nowhere at all. As good as looking a blind cat in the eye. And you know you don’t want to do that.”
But I did. I wanted to see that blind cat all the way through, into her milky eyes and beyond. Sacred it was, that kitchen: the shiny surface near the sink covered in blood, the gizzards and neck put aside to be fried later and eaten—Lucille’s special delicacy—and her tidying up after the mess of flour and butter, her thick batter where she rolled chicken breasts and thighs before frying them in the skillet at dinnertime for the “white folks.” That’s what she used to say, with a grin and a nod, adding: “But we get the good parts.”
Last November, I spoke with PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist John Edgar Wideman just before the publication of Wideman’s Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File. Wideman’s book—part history, part memoir, part fiction—begins with an investigation into the recently declassified details of the 1945 court martial and execution of Louis Till, a black private in the segregated U.S. Army stationed in Italy during World War II. Louis Till’s name surfaces rarely if at all as a footnote to the horrific, and much better-known story of his son, Emmett Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago who was kidnapped, bludgeoned almost beyond recognition, shot, and dumped in a river in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. As a distant precursor to his interest in Louis Till, Wideman recalls being haunted by the image of Emmett Till’s mangled face from the moment he saw it in Jet magazine in 1955. The young Wideman—then 14 years old, just like Emmett Till—found himself filled with dread by a single, unshakable thought: “That could have been me.”
We are on the side of the species’ eternal Life, our enemies are on the side of eternal Death. And Life will swallow them up, by synthesizing the two terms of the antithesis within the reality of communism.–Amadeo Bordiga
The night Trump was elected, there were celebrations on the streets of Juba, South Sudan.
Orson, a thirty year-old State Department employee, groped for a word from the nauseous pit of his groin–a groin inhabited by a succubus of pure fear–and found (implausibly, for an unconscious child of the Sokal Affair) “lumpen.”
Lumpen: a Marxist word, more or less.
Let’s begin with the word “legitimate.”
Senator Schumer’s teary response on Saturday to Trump’s modified Muslim ban wasn’t namby-pamby. It felt right. Yet Bernard Avishai wasn’t wrong to point out in a piece posted last week at Talking Points Memo that Schumer (and Nancy Pelosi) aren’t made for this moment. Avishai argues Democrats must coalesce fast around figures who can appeal to voters who once supported the party.
The Democratic party, in other words, must have a clear message that speaks to the anxieties of the traditional Democratic voters it lost. And the message needs a tough, plausible messenger: a leader, or small number of united leaders, who embody—in their persons, their logic, their stories, and their demonstrated courage—integrity that advances what they are saying. If the message is right, and the messenger is authentic, you get a winning charisma.
The crew at Antidote magazine have translated this scary piece by European reporters Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus on Trump’s Big Data consultants, Cambridge Analytica. First is re-blogging it below (though, per Antidote, we’ll take their version down if the piece, which was originally published in a mainline Swiss magazine, gets an authorized translation/launch in America). Please don’t take this repost as an endorsement of the authors’ implicit claims about the effectiveness of Big Data-mining and “psychometrics.” But we should all be alive to what’s being cooked up by numbers scum in Trump’s orbit.
Emory University’s nosite.org has reblogged “Origin of the Species”—first posted here in mid-August, 2016. Author Mark Dudzic wrote a brief intro for nosite, which includes post-election reflections. You can read his update below (along with his original post and an appended editor’s note).
Bob Dylan’s nod in his Nobel prize acceptance speech to Shakespeare was in tune with Charles O’Brien’s musing on the dailiness of genius in his pre-millennial take-down of George Steiner (which is posted below).
I know I just dropped too many names on you, but please allow me to introduce one more. I was reminded of O’Brien’s music again recently when I came across a Steiner quote in the introduction to a reprint of an early work by the Marxist polymath Max Raphael. The intro’s author cited this bit of Steiner in wannabe mandarin mode–”not only the humanities, but humane and critical intelligence itself resides in the always threatened keeping of the very few”–to sum up assumptions about Mind that Raphael instinctively resisted. Like Raphael back in the day, O’Brien has always been repelled by the yen to equate humanism with prerogatives of “traditionally delimited professional circles.”
“We’re treating these [protesting] adolescents and Millennials like precious snowflakes,” Conway told host Sean Hannity. (11/17/2016)