Author Nato Thompson explains how art and culture became a weapon aimed at the public - by expanding the influence of the powerful across society, and revealing the deeply emotional dimension to life and politics long concealed by liberal appeals to rationalism - and what Roger Ailes understands about human nature that Plato just couldn't get.
Nato is author of Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life from Melville House.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Art critic and premature environmentalist John Ruskin said, "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey." Today, fascism is rising all over the world, and, as with everything these days but pharmaceuticals, the US response is to offer the product a little cheaper and a little worse. Where fascism is concerned, "made in the USA" is the new "made in China."
After WWI, so many great European artists – poets, painters, filmmakers, playwrights – were disgusted to their deepest core by the pointless death and destruction that had taken place. They gave voice to multitudes who felt the same. But some pricks weren't satisfied. Germany was impoverished by bad treaty terms, no doubt, and the victors in Europe weren't treating the losers too well, but these unrepentant pricks would have felt the same way regardless. The poverty and embarrassment of nations was just an opportunity to them.
Today we call these pricks fascists, whether they adopted the name and the shirt or not. Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini were fascists. Stalin was an opportunist of similar stripe, and though for chronological, geographical and picayune decorative reasons we don't call him a fascist, he was a fascist, as were Mao and Jiang Qing and Chiang- kai Shek and Hirohito. And they had some fascist game. They were good at their jobs. Stalin alone murdered the equivalent of the entire population of greater Los Angeles and then some.
WWII was made by fascists. Even in the aftermath of a war most people judged an abhorrent, meaningless paroxysm of carnage, fascists wanted another war and got it. They didn't just talk the talk.
It took a pile of 40 million more corpses to feed the beast birthed by fascism, and so awful was it that even the leftover fascists and newly-aspiring fascists couldn't buck the anti-fascist, anti-war, anti-hatred trend that followed in its wake for a good thirty-five years. No, it took a lot of doing, a lot of lying, and a lot of killing before labor union victories and democratic socialism and investment in the public welfare could be turned into the perceived profanities they're treated as today, particularly in the United States.
In 1761 – (256 years ago) – in one of the most significant armed conflicts of the eighteenth century, forces of the Maratha empire met Afghan invaders in battle near Paripat, in what is now northern India. The Marathas were at the peak of their power, and they came to the fight with brand-new French-built artillery. But after heavy bloodshed they were pushed back by the more numerous and better trained Afghans in a battle that is viewed today as having marked the beginning of the Maratha empire’s decline. Between thirty and forty thousand Maratha warriors were killed, as were some twenty to forty thousand Afghans. And on the next day the Afghans overrran the city of Paripat, massacring some forty to seventy thousand noncombatants. But the Afghans would fail to follow up on their victory, and were soon pushed out of India by the Sikhs. One historian has written that the battle at Paripat “did not decide who was to rule India, but rather who was not. The way was, therefore, cleared for the rise of the British power in India.”
In 1907 – (110 years ago) – the city of Kingston, Jamaica, was struck by an estimated magnitude 6.5 earthquake. It was seen as one of the deadliest earthquakes recorded up to that time. All buildings in Kingston were damaged, with about 85 percent of them completely destroyed. The initial quake was followed by fires, a tsunami, and some eighty aftershocks over the next several weeks. All in all, about eight hundred to one thousand people were killed, and another ten thousand were left homeless.
In 1966 – (51 years ago) – Sergei Korolev, chief designer of the Soviet Union’s space program, died from a bungled surgical operation. Korolev, a rocket scientist whom Stalin had exiled to Siberia, had later been recalled to design and build military missiles. After Nikita Khrushschev came to power, Korolev shrewdly diverted resources toward space exploration, leading the projects to launch Sputnik into orbit in 1957, and Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Through the early Sixties he labored to satisfy Khrushchev’s constant demands for Cold War propaganda victories over the United States, by masterminding a series of politically driven space spectaculars, including the first spaceflight by a woman, and the first spacewalk. But in 1966 he underwent routine surgery for hemorrhoids, performed personally by the... read more
John is author of Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein from Blue Rider Press.
Marc also dropped the hottest, best-reviewed videogame of 2016, THUMPER, we'll hear about that too.
Jake wrote the article Senator-Elect and Former Paramilitary Leader Guy Philippe Arrested on Drug Charges for CEPR.
Antonia wrote the article Rex Tillerson Could Be America's Most Dangerous Secretary of State for In These Times.
Elliot is author of the essay The Concept of the Wall for ROAR Magazine.
Sorry to be so specific and surprising with the text of Jeff's tease.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I was raised in a shitty suburb of Detroit full of bullies or aspiring bullies. As a child my biggest worry was being noticed. I preferred anonymity. Being singled out in a crowd was a prelude to horrible things.
I say I preferred to remain anonymous. It never occurred to me to make friends. I didn't know what that was about. I had friends by default. Anyone who interacted with me without insulting or bullying was my friend. And even then I didn't always trust them. I just knew they had chosen to behave like a friend and that was their choice. Until they behaved otherwise, they were my friend. I didn't understand myself as an active being in the community. I was much more concerned with how the community was acting upon me.
A little later on people would recount their memories of our interactions. I then began, slowly, to understand that I had a presence among others. I was not invisible. I did and said things, which actions and statements were remembered by others. A relationship began to develop between my observing eye and this reported thing that was, I guessed, some aspect of me. I began to watch myself, just as I had been watching the world. I saw myself through the eyes of others. And the more I heard about my presence in the lives of others, the more I saw myself as the main character in a story being told.
I'm going to name the observer, "The Gaze" and the observed, "The Hero," just for the sake of simplicity. The Gaze evaluates what's going on, and the Hero is the main character in the drama the Gaze is watching. Somewhere in between those two was an empty space. My true identity began to be built in the empty space between these conflicting aspects of myself as both an invisible observer and an observed character. And I had no idea what was being built. And I had no desire to know.
I don't know if everyone's identity is constructed this way, or if I'm just one of the unlucky ones who found himself with an empty space where a self should be, letting it build itself without my cultivation or conscious awareness, like an autonomous, unseen detective building an image of a crime from pieces of evidence, discarding whatever judgments prove faulty, incorporating what seems reliable. But I do believe we all have shells made out of Gaze and Hero, and we all have a space within, where our self is built, however... read more
Here's what Chuck is reading to prepare for Saturday's show:
Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein - John Nixon [Blue Rider Press]
Senator-Elect and Former Paramilitary Leader Guy Philippe Arrested on Drug Charges - Jake Johnston [CEPR]
Rex Tillerson Could Be America's Most Dangerous Secretary of State - Antonia Juhasz [In These Times]
The Concept of the Wall - Elliot Sperber [ROAR Magazine]
In 1131 – (886 years ago) – a Danish prince named Canute Lavard was killed by his cousin Magnus, who viewed him as competition for the Danish throne. Canute was the son and nephew of Danish kings and had been chosen by his uncle, King Niels of Denmark, to establish peace with the Slavic warriors who kept attacking the area of what is now the border between Denmark and Germany. Canute’s success in that assignment made him a contender for kingship, a favorite of the Holy Roman Emperor, and a target of the jealous hatred of Magnus, the son of King Niels. A few years after murdering Canute, Magnus himself would die in battle, still trying to cement his own claim to the throne. Canute, meanwhile, would be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint in 1169.
In 1355 – (662 years ago) – Inês de Castro, the mistress of Crown Prince Pedro of Portugal, was beheaded in front of her own children on orders of Pedro’s father, King Afonso IV. Inês had been a lady-in-waiting to Constança of Castile, Prince Pedro’s lawful wife, whom he had been forced to marry for political reasons. Pedro and Inês became passionate lovers, and after Constança died of childbirth, Pedro went on to have four more children with Inês. But King Afonso still would not let his son marry Inês, since he feared that it would confuse future claims of royal succession, which could escalate into bloody political conflict. Instead, the king sent three courtiers to kill Inês. When the king died two years later, Pedro inherited the throne and had two of the courtiers executed by having their hearts ripped out of their bodies as he watched. Pedro then announced that he and Inês had been secretly married, thus retroactively and posthumously making her queen. On his orders, her body was exhumed, dressed in royal finery, presented to the court, and then given a majestic reburial. In ensuing centuries the story of Inês de Castro would be told in countless works of literature, and would give rise to a conversational expression that persists in Portugal to this day: “Agora é tarde; Inês é morta” — It’s too late, Inês is dead.
In 1948 – (69 years ago) – Captain Thomas Mantell, a twenty-five-year-old Air National Guard pilot and World War II veteran on routine patrol in the skies... read more
Mark wrote the piece The Real Trump for New York Review of Books.
Alexandra is author of Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs from University of Chicago Press.
Julianne wrote the article Digital Redlining: How Internet Service Providers Promote Poverty for Truthout.
Jeff is starting off 2017 on a high T note.
2: Hillary on the internet: Feminism, civility and the minefield of online dissent. / Amber A'Lee Frost
5: Don't believe the Russia hype: Who profits from the new Red Scare? / Andrew Cockburn
6: Why the public never bought Hillary's Anti-Social-Democratic agenda. / Liza Featherstone and Doug Henwood
8: On domination, extinction, and capitalism's long history of slaughter. / Ashley Dawson
10: Fuck work: The case against full employment, and for guaranteed income. / James Livingston