“The more total society becomes, the greater the reification of the mind and the more paradoxical its effort to escape reification on its own. Even the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter. Cultural criticism finds itself faced with the final stage of the dialectic of culture and barbarism. To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today. Absolute reification, which presupposed intellectual progress as one of its elements, is now preparing to absorb the mind entirely. Critical intelligence cannot be equal to this challenge as long as it confines itself to self-satisfied contemplation. (Prisms, 34) Theodore Adorno c. 1955
Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living–especially whether one who escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on living. His mere survival calls for the coldness, the basic principle of bourgeois subjectivity, without which there could have been no Auschwitz; this is the drastic guilt of him who was spared. By way of atonement he will be plagued by dreams such as that he is no longer living at all, that he was sent to the ovens in 1944 and his whole existence since has been imaginary, an emanation of the insane wish of a man killed twenty years earlier. (Negative Dialectics, 362-363) Theodore Adorno 1966
“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” Karl Popper
“Global capitalism is brutal and heartless. In other news I got a great app for my phone that allows me not to feel!!!” Eddie Pepitone
“Drama is beneath me considering our age.” Chuck D on getting sued last week by Flav
“If I wanted your opinion I’d beat it out of you.” Elvira Mistress of the Dark
“In a time of war the nation is always of one mind, eager to hear something good of themselves and ill of the enemy. At this time the task of the news-writer is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that a battle is expected, and afterwards that a battle has been fought, in which we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered, did all, and our enemies did nothing.” Dr. Johnson
Remember Harmabe’s grieving mother, Covfefe?
This was the week where someone asked when I got past my existential crisis. The quick answer is, “Never.” In fact I’ve come to think of it as my companion animal.
Some of us have a deep inexplicable need to put our thoughts down in writing now and then and lately it’s been getting harder and harder to focus on those thoughts. The news cycle and its tawdry lover, Outrage have been coming at us so fast and so furiously that I just can’t get a grip on anything. Facts, factoids, news, both real and imagined fly over the transom like that shower of arrows in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Not long ago things were so much simpler. Every morning you’d open your inbox and find a note from Barbara Streisand telling what to think and when to think it. Then once or twice a month FedEx would bring a stack of papers which were the rough equivalent of that the Brits call a white paper. A few would be from Amal Clooney, but the bulk were written by Sean Penn.
Not to conflate this with Adorno’s statements, (above) but you have to wonder what you’re supposed to blog when you can’t focus?
Therefore – here comes a few items that need to move off the desk before they hit their expiration dates.
I can’t unsee what you did there!
Earlier in the week this article popped up which introduced me to the right-leaning rapper, Baked Alaska.
Casting about for further info on Mr. Alaska I learned a term I had not heard before, The Dirtbag Left. Two guys who call their podcast The Chapo Trap House were busily trashing Mr. Alaska while performing an audio skit which portrayed Seb Gorka as little more than a loud, talkative, stock character straight out of a Republic Serial.
So what is The Dirt Bag Left?
Per Eve Peyser –
“The dirtbag left”: A term coined by Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House, a popular politics podcast that was once described by the Guardian as “leftwing Breitbart,” “the dirtbag left” describes a political movement that champions socialist ideology with an aggressive disinterest in pandering to prominent liberals (any Hillary Clinton advocate, for example). Dirtbag leftists disdain the average liberal’s commitment to pomp and circumstance, to upholding civilized discourse. Moreover, the dirtbag left believes vulgarity can be a powerful political tool. (In an essay on the necessity of political vulgarity for Current Affairs, Frost writes that in the Trump era, “If we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.”)
Or this from Jeet Heer –
Chapo is the flagship show of the Dirtbag Left, a phrase coined by co-host Amber A’Lee Frost to describe a take-no-prisoners style of American socialism that’s ascendent in the age of Trump. While examples of the Dirtbag Left can also be found in publications like The Baffler, Current Affairs, and podcasts like The War Nerd and Street Fight Radio, Chapo remains the purest example of the species. “It’s a movement that uses many of the tactics of the online alt-right—humour, memes, Twitter trolling and open animosity—while remaining committed to progressive leftist ideology,” John Semley wrote earlier this month in Maclean’s. “A given Chapo episode sees the hosts yukking it up at the expense of hacky mainstream media op-eds (New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is a favourite target of the gang’s derision), or critiquing the limp, liberal identity politics of the recent, and much-lauded, Wonder Woman movie.”The comparison Semley draws with the alt-right is apt. On substance, Chapo upholds the democratic-socialist politics of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, but in style it is much closer to the vituperative, insulting, shock-jock tactics used not just by Twitter users with Pepe the Frog avatars, but Trump himself. The response of mainstream liberals to these tactics on the right has been to double down on the importance of civility. “When they go low, we go high,” as Michelle Obama famously said. But the Dirtbag Left has no use for civility, and instead wants to counter the alt-right’s mudslinging in kind. Their slogan could be, “When they go low, we go into the gutter.”
A better grasp of the Dirtbaggers’ inconoclatic ways are also found in this article which Alaska Wolf Joe called the best think piece he’s read all summer.
It starts off with –
SOMETHING HAS GONE BADLY WRONG with our atheists. All these self-styled intellectual titans, scientists, and philosophers have fallen horribly ill. Evolutionist faith-flayer Richard Dawkins is a wheeling lunatic, dizzy in his private world of old-fashioned whimsy and bitter neofascism. Superstar astrophysicist and pop-science impresario Neil deGrasse Tyson is catatonic, mumbling in a packed cinema that the lasers wouldn’t make any sound in space, that a spider that big would collapse under its own weight, that everything you see is just images on a screen and none of it is real. Islam-baiting philosopher Sam Harris is paranoid, his flailing hands gesticulating murderously at the spectral Saracen hordes. Free-thinking biologist PZ Myers is psychotic, screeching death from a gently listing hot air balloon. And the late Christopher Hitchens, blinded by his fug of rhetoric, fell headlong into the Euphrates.
Critics have pointed out this clutch of appalling polemic and intellectual failings on a case-by-case basis, as if they all sprang from a randomized array of personal idiosyncrasies. But while one eccentric atheist might be explicable, for all of the world’s self-appointed smartest people to be so utterly deranged suggests some kind of pattern. We need, urgently, a complete theory of what it is about atheism that drives its most prominent high priests mad.
Shorter answer – the Dirtbaggers are the Anti-Pelosi.
And I get that. We have this running joke in the family that’s based on people we met back in the wayyyy early 90s at the Utne Reader Salons. Every so often someone would bring a friend who could only be described as a Poo-Ass Progressive who felt obliged to go way off topic and present their liberal bona fides which always started with, “You know, there’s some very good rap music and I was watching Cossi fan Tutte the other night on PBS…”
And on and on without every coming back to the topic at hand.
It’s what the kids call, ‘virtue signaling’.
You know, like when you tell pollsters you think Kid Rock would make a good senator.
Where were we?
All of this seems to be a subset of the larger issue of whether or not it’s OK to punch a Nazi. There are those, like the Dirtbaggers, who are all for the idea. Then there are the Poo-Ass Progressive who fear that if you punch a Nazi they win and history will repeat itself. We’ll be faced with our own version of Germany in the 30s where the Nazis will get the upper hand after force is used against them.
Can it happen here?
It is plausible, but is it possible?
I’ve come to believe that there would be a collective sigh of relief if history would repeat itself. Regardless of the outcome people could finally let their collective hair down for a minute and bask in something that was coming back around. Which is to say what I started out with here – lately things have come at us at such a furious pace that made – just maybe – for a few days or even a whole week it would be nice to be able to get a grip on what’s going on.
But in a way that would be more like taking a couple of Tylenol when you have the flu.
You’d feel better for a little while but, but you’d still have the flu.
While you’re thinking about that, here’s a quick how-to guide.
You try so hard but you don’t understand just what you will say when you get home because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is,do you, Mr. Jones?
Someone asked if Alaska Wolf Joe had required summer reading.
He assigned us The Politics of Aesthetics by Jacques Ranciere.
If we were going to spend a portion of August driving around Colorado to see how little time we could spend in Unincorporated Rio Blanco County (4 hours awake, 7.5 hours asleep, and .5 hour in misc. activities) then we would need something to talk about.
The book opens with a definition of artistic hierarchies which sorta kinda fits with some ideas I’ve had about the future of the economy. Lately I’ve come to think that we might be at the early stages of transformation into what the next dominant form of economic organization might be. Ranciere begins with defining art by talking about the dominance of modernism, especially modernism’s emphasis on the rules and hierarchies of what constitutes great art. Out of that he sees the old avant guard as a reaction to those rules – a naysaying of a kind or the taking up of an opposite point of view. As such modernism could only be undone if its core was either ignored or replaced. Which is what happened under post modernism. The rules were never challenged. The rules were reduced to text, meaning was no longer the possession of the creator, but became the sole property of the observer.
Much the same can be said of what everybody likes to call ‘late-stage capitalism.’ (LSC)
Sooner or later it will be replaced, but not by socialism or communism. In face, and this is my current thinking, it will be replaced by something we cannot grasp in the same way modernists could not believe their rules of art would become an artifact. Under this definition of LSC neither communism nor socialism are replacements. Like the old avant guard they were merely reactions to the existing order rather than the future. Even the definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative are defined by a single system of economic order. Prior to it one was from France or England and a loyal subject – without further qualification – of his or her respective monarch.
No, there might be something coming and it could be evolving at this minute, but we can’t see it. At a bare minimum someone might get a glimpse, but like the physicists of the 19th Century – it’s all speculation until someone develops the math – the correct set of proofs – to find out if it’s truly real.
Until somebody comes up with the math at least we can all consider the alternatives to how to conduct ourselves in polite society.