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Archive

Dr. Layman’s Diagnosis: Right but for the Wrong Reasons.

“Dr. Layman” is a YouTube personality. He’s part of a growing and successful, loose affiliation of not right wing and in some cases genuinely left wing, individuals who have in the past few years, taken a cyber hammer to the previously ascendant, loose affiliation of rightwing YouTube personalities.

Layman has a video where he humorously, sarcastically and intelligently offers a meta examination and excavation of the algorithm dominated life cycles of trends in YouTube.

He points out that the first phase of YouTube, say roughly from 2005 to 2007, was dominated by benign pro Christian talkers eventually broken (that is suffering from decreasing viewers, lost revenue and a growth in both of those areas to their opponents) by militant atheists. The militant atheists were dominated by “JT Kirk” who at one point had over a million viewers and then faded.

Subsequent waves are discussed culminating in the period around 2016 which saw the rise of a loose affiliation of right wing and extreme right wing talkers – feel free to make your own list – comprising such notable geniuses and neo fascists as, Sargon of Akkad, Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, and uber troll, Alex Jones.

This wave was met and broken by a loose affiliation of not right wing, and avowedly leftist talkers – feel free to make your own list – comprised of, Natalie Parrot, Three Arrows, and at the upper end of the spectrum, TYT, and Sam Seder and the Dirtbags of Chapo.

Backed by numbers that indicate a steady decline of viewers for the right wingers, and a steady increase for their opposites, the good doctor has a valid point.

He concludes with what he admits is a lot of speculation that, should these trends continue then the not right wing talkers should start to see their numbers fade as their viewers grow bored and look for new forms of entertainment.

He hints at and alludes to how the two wings are symbiotically linked as they exist essentially only in relation to what they are not, and that when they achieve a tactical victory, they have nothing else to say and run out of both targets and ammunition. In other words as he says (and we paraphrase) how many times can you point out that Jordan Peterson or Paul Joseph Watson not only have no idea what they’re talking about but, that they consistently, inadvertently paraphrase people they insist are a threat to something they call Western civilization.

The answer is for about a year or three and then the audience gets bored and or distracted and goes on to something else.

All well and good and even more or less true but, and this is where we believe this gets even more interesting, it’s what the doctor leaves out that matters.

First, what’s gone missing is that all of this is stylistically descended from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. We have expressed our contempt for Stewart’s establishment liberalism and his hypocrisy elsewhere* but what is on point here is that video generally and the internet specifically, do not forget anything. As a result the systemic hypocrisy of politicians and the spastic, inebriated borderline Delphic mutterings of Peterson, Sam Harris, Sargon, and all the rest of the gang who would if not for the internet and a handful of corporate enablers like Bill Maher, be indistinguishable from the street corner mystics who periodically wander into a public library and start screaming about the feminists and CIA agents sending secret transmission through the computers, would be easily exposed as having said one thing on Monday and a contradictory thing on Friday. And they are also prone to being exposed as cranks and hacks who haven’t a clue as to what they’re talking about.

Case in point, you can find numerous videos of the Lobster King of Toronto, J. Peterson, paraphrasing Frankfurt School and Foucault 101, while attempting to make the point that they are spawns of Satan, and you can even find him doing it while arguing with Sam Harris who seems as oblivious as Peterson that they sound like morons. Which is not to say Adorno and Horkheimer and Foucault walk on water; they don’t. For example, Foucault’s support for the ayatollahs was absurd and Horkheimer and Adorno often write with the verve of men who believe that anatomy textbooks are seduction manuals.

But while it’s amusing if also cause for worry, that Peterson and Paul Watson keep paraphrasing people they claim are immoral hobgoblins, what’s more significant is that YouTube is full of people who not only notice these discrepancies in logic, fact and ethics but are, courtesy of the tech revolution, far better read than one might first assume and given the absence of jobs, have the time to post lengthy rebuttals in the comments sections of YouTube or, if ambition allows, the time to produce their own YouTube channels – hello ContraPoints and Three Arrows, etc.

The Daily Show thrived in part because the media saturation bubble from which there was no escape, made crushing the assorted goons and ghouls, more or less like shooting zeros and ones in a barrel. A great generational change was underway and it was happening in real time and slow mo with commentary on multiple media platforms. People, more or less still not very bright, were nonetheless smart enough to know that they could watch and record someone saying something and then watch and record them contradicting themselves later, and then they could again, courtesy of the tech revolution, share it for laughs and or outrage with thousands if not millions of people just by pressing a few buttons. The result was not just a self-contained hermetically sealed echo chamber in which reputations had a life cycle that was suddenly on par with a fruit fly, but it shifted claims of authority away from professional gatekeepers to anyone with an internet connection. A corollary of this was the commodification of “reputations” and their attachment to algorithms, which in turn were used to manipulate the people who, with the press of a button, were providing cyber thumbs up or down, within the virtual coliseum.

In the case of Stewart that meant a comfortable retirement on a farm where he rescues wayward animals and occasionally pops up from under Colbert’s desk, and with the liberal sanctimony for which he is known, asks why can’t we all just get along. For the “alt-right” it meant being subject to clever, often well reasoned, ridicule and having to face the fact that their tribe would top out at a certain percentage, incapable of actually seizing power, or even with the malignant troll in the White House, getting everyone they hate to stop using their computers and the internet. But mostly, and we can’t emphasize this enough, they were and are subject to being made to look like fools – which is something they cannot tolerate as, after all, their entire reason to be, is that they feel as if the world is laughing at them.

This in turn brings us to the second issue.

The rise and fall of these assorted talkers, on both the left and the right, is being manipulated by the algorithm dominance of the corporatocracy. That’s so true as to verge on, if not race past being banal. And Layman touches on the impact of the algorithms, but it bares deeper consideration.

As we detailed previously there’s something arch if not ironically camp about ContraPoints, in that while perfomring a kind of pantomime of camp, the show veers into being an unintentional send up of itself precisely because, per Layman, it exists solely as the shadow of what it’s against and, it does not and will not break the fourth wall and take action. In fact Parrot even belittles the very idea of direct action and despite all the rhetoric about revolution ends up advocating for Bernie Sanders style participation in the system, and a tepid liberalism dressed up as FDR in drag, or liberalism with an attitude. The terminal irony of this, is that ContraPoints is contextualized by its symbiosis with the targets of its disdain, from Peterson to McInnes, to Sargon and the cyber borderland where reactionary YouTube morphs into 4chan fascism.

This in turn is not so very different from Chapo, which despite its heated rhetoric and blunderbuss spray of contempt for the establishment liberals, and Chapo’s too clever by half, word vomit references that offer the idea of a hyper-realized culture of endless signs, that judges you on whether or not you can understand coded references to Gramsci, Horkheimer and Baudrillard, with double entendres about Trotsky and Victor Serge,** again takes no direct action. This of course leaves us to say – After all when one thinks of revolution one naturally thinks of three or four thirty-something White boys in Brooklyn making a million a month off that noted subversive system, Patreon. In other words, despite all their talk and venom, you wont see them at a barricade or being the catalyst for a general or even a limited strike as they declare the People’s Republic of Brooklyn. Instead what you’ll get is a mirror image of Jordan Peterson or Sargon or (shudder) Alex Jones only with better books.

In the case of Three Arrows the criticism would be off base and inappropriate because you can’t blame someone for failing at something they weren’t attempting but it is still part of an echo chamber that is hermetically sealed. And it is a system that is sealed by corporate control of the technology.

However, it is not sufficient to blame only the technology for the fact that the most effective anti right wing opposition is compromised by its symbiosis with the extreme right, and that it lives within the DNA of the system that breeds extreme right wing paranoia and talkers.

We mean here to again draw attention to the dog that has not barked. We mean mass surveillance.

Alluded to by both the YouTube leftists and the extreme right, and used as cheap talking points in corporate television shows and commercials, the Orwellian reality has been woven into the zeitgeist with both precision and an antiseptic quality, that renders it as both omni-present and yet invisible.

The results are that one has two logical choices.

Either Obama and the rest of the establishment are to be believed when they say there’s nothing to be concerned about, no one’s listening to your calls, following you on the internet, tracking you via your phone, recording everything you say, buy or look at, and storing it all in a vast server farm roughly the size of an ever expanding city sate, and that the governments use of civil liberty eviscerating technology like Stingray, and the almost quaint pre tech use of a vast army of “confidential informants” are all nothing to worry about and that all of that, and the whole Edward Snowden panopticon nightmare is nothing to loose sleep over.

Or, they’re full of shit and with history as a guide one should logically assume that the powers that be did not see 1984 as a warning but as a how to manual, and that one of the effects of a system of mass surveillance is self censorship which is a euphemism for obedience.

But someone will say, the day after Trump was installed, the largest demonstration in US history took place so, so much for your theory.

Except of course the protest like the whole notion of “The Resistance” has not only been more or less a failure – hello associate justice Brett you preppy mother fucker – but it is essentially a Pepsi commercial.

People keep protesting and then they keep going home and the system keeps rolling along.

As one of the gangsters said back in the early 70s while the establishment was teaching S.E Asia the finer points of constitutional law and the beauty of Jeffersonian enlightenment, you can protest as much as you like as long as you keep paying your taxes.

And from that we ask, where exactly is any organizing leadership and coordination?

Consider Black Lives Matter.

Adrift with intercine and byzantine schisms, banged up over dubious connections to dubious figures like Louis Farrakhan and, also targeted for infiltration by the Hoovers.

And notice that the public “discussion” of that last and central issue, has no mention of the impact such systems have on the ability of people to engage in civil disobedience.

Of course this becomes circular.

Since the government is spying on everyone, and since they have a well documented history of disrupting civil liberties in a we had to set the bill of rights on fire to save it sort of way, one should expect the “resistance” to be rudderless, and ineffective.

But in addition one should expect no discussion of how there is no discussion and less effective and authentic action.

In such an environment you should expect to find Chapo and Parrot and all the rest in symbiosis with goons like Peterson and Peterson in symbiosis with the people he denounces but without whom, he would just be a psych professor at the University of Toronto.

And notice that in each case they all talk as if Lev Trotsky or Mao were on the verge of storming the Winter Palace; as if a band of rabid French intellectuals and Marx were going to start throwing bombs when the truth is, the tepid response to Trump, to his debasement of everything, the spiraling disintegration of the system, and the ongoing collapse of the environment have all produced the political movement equivalent of a stifled yawn.

And we cannot emphasize this enough – it is not the result of complacency but the complacency is the result of a deliberate campaign to stifle dissent.

This plays out in other spheres as well. One consistently hears famous novelists lament the absence of any American novels that deal with this state of affairs – no novels that tackle, the war, the economy, and so on, and which these critics attribute to a deficiency in interest among American writers. Where, they say, are America’s Dostoyevsky’s and Orwells.

And of course not a word about the corporate publishing empires that are wholly owned colonies of the corporate entertainment empires and which are all ultimately in bed with the government.

And here no doubt someone will say you can’t seriously believe that the government is directing what gets published?

To which we say you can’t seriously be suggesting that they are not?

And control does not require men in black suits taking people away in the middle of the night though we have no doubt such things occur. The fact that Scully and Mulder are fiction does not invalidate the critique of the system that they represent even if, they are tools of Fox and Rupert Murdoch.

In fact that proves the point. Fox (along with its liberal doppelganger, MSNBC, and the rest of the networks) decides what airs and it controls content and availability and the flow of money, and even where and when it doesn’t, it forces even anti-establishment work to be compromised by its symbiosis with the corporatocracy. The result is of course that whatever criticism of the system exists, is muted by a dull mock resistance brought to you with brief words from your sponsors.

In the case of the aforementioned novelists consider liberal heroine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie saying that she thinks American novelists are too self absorbed. Not, she thinks American corporate publishing is corrupt, and in bed with the government, and that its CEOs are dependent on the government for their survival and act accordingly. Not a word about how either mass surveillance is benign or not and if it’s not one should connect the dots and say gee, mass surveillance and a decades long absence of any work that deals with the devastating impact one should expect from a system of mass surveillance. Of course not, after all, she doesn’t want to go back to Nigeria and it’s America that gave her a McArthur Grant and fat publishing contracts. In other words, why bite the hands that feed you and get you off while you play the smug and superior foreigner who offers detached criticisms of the colonials.

And what a surprise, Adichie just won an award named for a writer dedicated to confronting the systemic abuse of power by the establishment and she said, we must have the courage to call a lie a lie.

And we agree, which is why we say she needs to stop repeating lies and tell the truth.

We’re living in an Orwellian dictatorship.

What are you going to do about it?

 

 

*For a look at Jon Stewart:

https://theviolentink.blog/2017/06/20/hes-not-a-bigot-hes-just-selling-a-rope-and-renting-a-tree-a-tribute-to-jon-stewart/

For a look at Adichie:

https://theviolentink.blog/2017/06/14/the-lazy-the-complicit/

And:

https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/06/life-across-borders-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-talks-about-americanah/

For a look at Dr. Layman:

Watch

** Regarding the near Rainman quality of obsessional references and the need to assert dominance and separation or a state of “cool” based on whether or not someone “gets” the obscure references to bands, books, films, commercials, and to bands, books, films, and commercials that contain references to still other bands, books, films, and commercials: While it is clearly a type of anxiety, what seems more useful is to contextualize it as anxiety generated from a fear that one’s identity is a wholly owned subsidiary of a series of corporate fronts, that exist as a vast archipelago of nesting dolls. The sense that one is only a set of references produces the obsession to establish that one is “self-aware” and thus has still not been assimilated into the collective (sic!). At the same time the obsessions creates a symbiosis in which “resistance” is a fabrication or, simulacrum of authenticity because the references used rely on the very cultural DNA  that the obsessive claims to reject.

This can be seen not only in the hyper and near logorrhea manner of certain talkers like Chapo, but within the desperate need to appear to be part of a network so that, for example, when ContraPoints publicly acknowledges another YouTube talker who in turn responds publicly, it is a way for the participants to both separate themselves from their group and attach themselves to it as both totem and participant.

Taken altogether this curious cultural tic is representative of anxiety in the face of an all-consuming system – a system that is both a set of dominant narratives as well as displays of power manifested in the blunt realities and traumas of the post industrial waste land, the Gotham-esque “Batman villain” quality of Trump, the live, in real time broadcasts of assorted environmental catastrophes or “terrorism events” which are then absorbed by the vast corporate bladder and sprayed back out at the shell shocked jitters and shakes public in the form of “event” and  “prestige” television that provides excuses for group hysteria as “fans” obsess over GOT, TWD, or WW.

All of that in turn repeats the process as the use of references to referential narrative systems become ubiquitous, and in the manner of early renegade Christians, one draws a fish in the sand and if the code is understood, so be it but if not, one erases it, dismisses it as a mere doodle, and recedes into the shadows.

But, and this is crucial, the early Christians were authentic renegades.

The contemporary talkers, however correct they are in their deconstructions of assorted other talkers, all exist in symbiosis with each other and exhibit a kind of paralysis in which talking about action replaces action and, more importantly, the spectacle or imitation of action is, like television shows, treated as if it were authentic participation.

While this stupor can be and has been connected to the systemic malaise that flows from mass culture and its assembly line dead on arrival banality, notice that what goes missing, is any consideration that the anxiety, while legitimate, is a nervous tic generated by the sense of dread that, you’re being watched, listened to and recorded, and that references to references within a set of cultural codes, are a survival mechanism in the face of a terminal eliminating surveillance.

That the narrative system of references is crippled while significant, does not diminish its importance as a vector of the current plague.

Consider this from, Foucault (sic!):

“Our society is not one of spectacle, but of surveillance; under the surface of images, one invests bodies in depth; behind the great abstraction of exchange, there continues the meticulous, concrete training of useful forces; the circuits of communication are the supports of an accumulation and a centralization of knowledge; the play of signs defines the anchorages of power; it is not that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated in it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies.”

We would add a particular contradiction. Namely that as the not-quite an individual asserts their theorhetical individuality by enmeshing themselves with a series of references, precisely as they become identified, they become invisible. This is similar to the commercial star/product or film star who, as they become synonymous with a character or a type, become incapable of vanishing and yet, vanish because they are always present.

In a society of mass surveillance in which “privacy is dead” the individual is always visible and thus, paradoxically, always erased.

To assert one’s visibility by utilizing elaborate systems of narrative codes, is to repeat or mirror the process of surveillance. The use of codes establishes the visibility of both the speaker and the one who responds. They assert through obscure references that they are visible to each other and though present remain invisible to those who are not “hip to the jive.”

This is of course an ancient habit (e.g., shibboleth) but in a society of mass surveillance it is either an authentic method of establishing kinship as genuine members of the authentic resistance, or as genuine and authentic imposters succumbing to the anxiety of always being observed, and as a result being reduced to a symbiosis with both the oppressor and the methods and systems of the oppressor.

 

 

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16 comments on “Dr. Layman’s Diagnosis: Right but for the Wrong Reasons.

  1. I enjoyed that. Also, I was amused that the advertising that WordPress put at the bottom was for an Amazon show, The Man in a High Castle. The corporation in question being part of the authoritarian corporatocracy of which the show is a pale shadow. And it is the corporation Amazon in advertising that is paying the corporation WordPress in order to maintain the flow of profits, no matter what you or any of us writes. We are, as always, caught up in the system like fish in a net.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Didn’t notice the add but you’re right! It’s like finding graveyards funny – which I do. After all I’m writing this on a slave manufactured, government sanctioned tracking device and doing my part to keep my government file active.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As I see it, either you find a way to be amused or you kill yourself. Amusement has been the only thing that has kept me alive this long.

        That is the danger of the depths of depression in a depressing society, it causes one to lose one’s sense of humor. And as many Americans are in varying states of mind-and-heart-numbing depression, they are as good as dead in being the walking dead.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        My consistent state. Camus of course in his Myth of Sisyphus says suicide is the only serious question and he comes down on the side of not doing it.

        My favorite quip attributed to him is: Should I kill myself or have another cup of coffee.

        The true face of our existential dilemma should be enough to make any rational person jump off a tall building.

        That puts me in mind of the almost end of Woody Allen’s Hana and her sisters where on the edge of the ledge he goes to see a Marx Brothers movie.

        It’s a particular point of view and one can reject it but it fits your point – laugh at the graveyard or dive into one.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I must admit that I almost feel sorry for the minions of the surveillance state. That is a tough job. With mass surveillance, it has to be overwhelming amounts of data. And that has to lead to panic and paranoia for those in power. I’m willing to bet that millions of Americans regularly make statements (in social media, email, phone conversations, etc) that verge on or entirely leap into the territory of the radical and revolutionary.

    Meanwhile, it is blatantly apparent that our dear leader Trump would love to take over the government, and probably not in a way that would make the intelligence community happy. One of the most dangerous men in the country is the president and that simple fact surely doesn’t go by unnoticed within the intelligence community. If they take seriously some patriotic notion of protecting the country, no matter how distorted by authoritarianism and corporatocracy, how does a good cog in the machine sort out his rationalizations and bravely carry on as society descends into madness?

    This is why I worry so little about making my opinions public. I’m irrelevant. As I assume, if and when the goons gain full power and drop democratic pretenses, it will be several sweeps of rounding up activists and malcontents before they get around to the likes of me. And by that point, it won’t matter much anyway. So, let them gather their information. I’m sure my file is already full (and that was probably true much earlier because the anti-war protest camp I was a part of in the early 2000s had an FBI informant). At the very least, I’m on a list, even if far down on the list. I’m sure I’m in good company.

    It is a strange thing, living within mass surveillance. As you say, “both omni-present and yet invisible.” Not even the paranoid mind can capture the essence of this invisible empire. Paranoia is a necessary part of the control system. That is how it functions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Well there’s a lot here to say the least.

      The spooks are not a monolith though it’s easy to see why one would think so.

      Many of them are more or less Stasi goons and thugs.

      Many are choir boys with a Captain America sense of right and wrong.

      Others are professional cynics.

      Still others would surprise the average person with the range and depth of their nuanced views.

      It is always worth remembering that a not insubstantial number of great writers were at one point spooks.

      On the other hand the agencies are a toxin and pose a serious threat to just about everything including themselves. They are in that sense like a smart person who one has reason to see locked up in a psych ward.

      And yes I have no doubt that tens of millions of people regularly say things that “cross a line” and send the already paranoid spooks into a state similar to someone mainlining Adderall and cocaine.

      On the other hand don’t underestimate the habit they have of using a shotgun where a laser would be appropriate. plenty of people who pose essentially no threat to anyone get swept up PDQ when the goon machine is let loose.

      On the other hand there’s people who end up at the top of the list more because of the systemic stupidity and corruption of the spooks then for anything else. In other words let’s say you find yourself under surveillance. Things go bump in the night, your phone makes weird noises or turns on and off at odd moments and people with the acting skills of a chair show up and start talking to you and make conversation like a third rate Beckett or Pinter character.

      You know their spooks and the smarter among them know you know but that morphs into their saying: tell us how you know, which in turn becomes an Mobius loop or Escher drawing.

      They are incapable of being satisfied but are either lightly present or savagely present and one also has to factor in the ones who “freelance” either for their own sadistic amusement or because they are also on someone else’s payroll – as in double and triple agents or one agent who owes money and their soul to a bookie who in turn sells their book to guys who live in the back of “social clubs” where they make great espressos.

      In other words we are inside a Pynchon/PDK novel with everything that entails.

      At the same time I have the sense, the growing vibe, that as you say as I said, visible/invisible – similar to the point in the very early 70s where J. Edgar told Nixon you either go full Pinochet and call out the army or except that I can’t guarantee things.

      The tech revolution has given the spooks a kind of golden age but the zeitgeist is changing and more and more people are changing their sense of things to include that they know the spooks are watching and as a result along side the systemic negative apathy there is also a kind of East Europe in 1987-88 vibe – the period before the wall came down in which surveillance was so ubiquitous that it became counterproductive.

      We’re not there yet and the big dog has a big set of teeth but you can feel the vibe morphing. No certainties and once the boogie man of unrest is on the loose as we’ve discussed anything becomes possible and one says, be careful what you wish for.

      Still, regardless “See you at the barricade*”

      *To quote Dr. Sydney Freedman from M*A*S*H: For the benefit of whatever microphone I’m speaking into, that was a joke.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I take your point. There are all kinds within the system. Most of them simply don’t care and try not to think about it. It’s a job after all. But for some, it’s more than a job.

        The funny thing is that the one’s the government has to worry most about are those in government. It’s those within the system who can cause the most damage with leaks, sabotage, coups, etc. And often those most motivated to take action are the most patriotic.

        Back during the Bush era, the FBI put out a report that said the most dangerous people to keep on watch were right-wingers and disgruntled veterans. That has to be even more true now. Yet as everyone knows, these are the very people most likely to support president Trump and would do anything he told them to do.

        If an overt power struggle erupts, how will that play out within the intelligence community? Which side will they take? Or will the government split into factions? And whose side will the military take, assuming it also doesn’t splinter? What happens when the government ends up spying on itself in an attempt to defend itself from threats within?

        I’m sure there are those in government asking these very questions.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        A somewhat shallow but I think very effective 9and therefore paradoxically deep) excavation of this is Captain America: Winter Soldier and Star Trek into Darkness.

        Both deal with the factionilization of intelligence agencies within the wider issues of mass surveillance and “the war on terror.”

        I agree a majority are complacent drones working a job. The machine picks their brains and then eventually replaces them.

        We should be in no doubt, with history as a guide, that the past year or so has seen a series of near catastrophes within the agencies and based no doubt on the issues you mention. Trump supporters and the machine are at odds though some within the system are just as fascistic but view Trump as inept and dislike him for that but not for his tyrannical nature with which they agree.

        Like

      3. I guess that goes back to the ever present option of suicide. If I became so paranoid that I was constantly censoring myself, I’d exit stage left. I’m not so attached to breathing that I would cling to the bitter end. If it gets bad enough, I’ll probably save the authoritarians the trouble by fully removing myself from the situation.

        That is why I wouldn’t make for much of a revolutionary. There are two kinds of people in this world, those who kill others or allow others to be killed on their behalf and those who’d rather kill themselves. Authoritarians and revolutionaries are both found in the first camp. I belong to the other.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        That’s perfectly logical. We’re in a genuinely grim reality.

        “Authoritarians and revolutionaries are both found in the first camp.”

        I agree. I find genuine revolutionaries far too blood thirsty but also, what’s worse, is the seeming ease with which they commit to the bloodshed.

        While I remain convinced that “revolution” is possible through peaceful means, it is the inevitable violence of the reaction that would inevitably require violence by the would be revolutionaries.

        This is “History” as a trap – what Joyce meant when he said it was, a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.

        Haven’t found a way to wake up yet but still working on it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I left out a third camp. There are also those like MLK who refuse to harm others but also refuse suicide, even when blackmailed. But that simply led to martyrdom. I’m not sure I want to be a martyr. I doubt I have the moral courage of MLK, much less of Bonhoeffer or Paine. My personality isn’t strong, even as I admire those who stood against abusive power.

        Then again, none of us ultimately knows what we have in us until our backs are against the wall, when stark choices are all that remain. I do know I have the capacity of suicide, though, because I’ve seriously attempted it before. Maybe that just makes me even more dangerous from the government’s perspective, considering the years of suicide bombings and suicidal mass shooters. It is true that those willing to die are not as easily kept in line within systems of control.

        I can’t say that there is no situation where I wouldn’t fight back. It’s just hard for me to imagine myself as a committed and successful revolutionary or terrorist, same difference to the ruling elite and their enforcers. That doesn’t stop me from hatred and frustration toward this system. I won’t shed a tear for America when the revolutionaries and terrorists finally come, even as I’m certain that people like me will suffer the most for it.

        Outside of political action, I can think of one scenario where I’d turn to violence. If I saw someone abusing an animal, child, etc, I would do anything in my power to stop them. That is the only way I could see myself suddenly becoming an enemy of the state, such as jackbooted government thugs harming an innocent right before my eyes. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing or I hope not, but that wouldn’t likely end well for me as state-sanctioned thugs tend to be good at their job.

        Anyway, I try to be honest with myself about such things. And I don’t try to hide who I am or what I stand for. It’s easier to keep things simple. It also makes the job of the intelligence agencies easier. I offer them freely info on myself. I figure they probably worry more about those keeping secrets than those with nothing to hide. That is why I don’t even bother to use a pseudonym. I’ve had a troll threaten me by saying that they knew who I was and my response was, so what? If someone wants to harm me, I’m not hard to locate. As a government employee, even my work info is open to the public.

        To be honest, I’m more concerned about an irate customer assaulting me. But my death is likely to be less dramatic such as lung cancer from sucking on secondhand car exhaust all day long while at work. I’m not motivated enough to worry about all the strangers out in the world who might want to hurt me and how they might go about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. rauldukeblog says:

        Life is often both cruel and absurd to the point where as said a rational person could conclude there’s no point in sticking around.

        the assertion by the state that suicide is by definition a sign of “mental illness” is clearly a political designation.

        My view is that suicide in order to be ethical must not involve physical harm to others. If it does it’s a paradox intellectually but also a cop out in practical terms or even just sadistic. Which is not to say that “suicide bombers” don’t have their reasons but so what – plenty of psychopaths have their reasons.

        but as to suicide as a response I don’t see it as by definition, illegitimate.

        The world is a mess and often brutally oppressive.

        There’s a great line about MLK from a tv show years ago where someone says in rebutting a al Sharpton style demagogue: King walked with the angels.

        Bonhoffer as well and the martyrs of the White Rose.

        The resistance in Nazi Germany puts the Pepsi Resistance to shame.

        I have a similar attitude towards trolls. most are keyboard warriors and the ones who are serious would still have to make an effort and even if it’s not much of an effort I’m not impressed.

        Once you’ve been threatened by professionals the amateurs are relatively easy to see.

        I also have a similar attitude towards harm to animals and such people could easily provoke me.

        None of which is to say I’m some sort of “tough guy” and while often afraid have also on occasions stood up to people who probably if provoked could have snapped me in half but that doesn’t mean one has to make it easy for them. Fuck them.

        And yeah, inhaling exhaust fumes and getting cancer or having someone get irate and start trying to break the window on your booth is far more likely to be the reason for an early demise.

        Needless to say, keep the faith.

        We’re not dead yet.

        Like

      7. “While I remain convinced that “revolution” is possible through peaceful means, it is the inevitable violence of the reaction that would inevitably require violence by the would be revolutionaries.”

        I’m divided about violence. That is because there really isn’t a choice between violence and nonviolence. We are already in the middle of violence. Millions of Americans experience the violence of the corporatocracy through economic desperation, homelessness, toxicity, sickness, militarized policing, imprisonment, and on and on.

        Even worse, hundreds of millions of foreigners, most poor brown people, are hit by even worse violence from US wars of aggression, overthrowing of governments, puppet dictatorships, sanctions on food and healthcare, largely Western-caused climate change crises, and so much else could be added.

        It’s hard to keep track of all the covert and overt evil. From a cold calculation of body counts, I wouldn’t be surprised that the US is the primary cause of millions of deaths and shortened lives every year, especially considering no year has gone by in our history when we weren’t involved in wars of aggression.

        Many like to talk about the violence of the French Reign of Terror. But governments of that time regularly killed far larger numbers. It was the violence, both military and economic (mass starvation in the latter case) of the French monarchy that led to revolution in the first place. And the British Empire was constantly involved in colonial violence when they weren’t violently oppressing their own people. Not long after Burke lamented the deaths in the French Revolution, the government he was an official of killed more of his fellow Irish than died in the Reign of Terror.

        The problem is nonviolence rarely ends violence. The only example I can think of is Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. Even the British didn’t leave British because of nonviolent protests as they were already pulling out of their colonial commitments, as public opinion turned against imperialism and it simply became too expensive to manage. What are the chances of nonviolence ending violence in the US? Next to zero. That is why revolution is the only moral choice, not to say that revolution offers much hope. It’s also why revolution is probably inevitable, no matter one’s opinion on violence. As I’ve said, revolution is a failure and that is where we find ourselves, at the end of a long period of failure.

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      8. rauldukeblog says:

        I wouldn’t disagree – there’s violence all around.

        I read somewhere that the number of people executed in England during the entirety of the era from 1789 until 1815 was far higher than in France. “The Terror” is a literary/political trope. But you know that.

        “Revolution is a failure.” True. I may have mentioned that Zizek is fond of quoting Walter Benjamin that all fascist take overs are the result of failed revolutions.

        But regardless. Revolution is in a sense cutting off your arm because you have a headache.

        At the same time as you say it’s not got much if anything to do with choice in the conventional sense.

        These situations are dropped on you and then you have to act vs choose as the idea of “choice” has been eliminated.

        Sort of being forced to choose (sic) between bad and worse vs good and bad.

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      9. “I read somewhere that the number of people executed in England during the entirety of the era from 1789 until 1815 was far higher than in France. “The Terror” is a literary/political trope. But you know that.”

        I hadn’t come across that before. But it is unsurprising.

        “I may have mentioned that Zizek is fond of quoting Walter Benjamin that all fascist take overs are the result of failed revolutions.”

        Sure. And all revolutions are the result of failed authoritarianism. Or is it failed non-authoritarianism? But one could add as a counterpoint that all democratic take overs are the result of successful revolutions, whether violent or nonviolent.

        To put it more generally, failure tends to lead to failure as almost all human experience is varying degree of failure, and no success has ever come without many failures preceding it. If not for the French Revolution and American Revolution, there wouldn’t have been the democratic reforms in France and the US. Even the new French regime unintentionally ended up promoting democracy all across Europe by wiping out the old monarchies.

        Imagine if imperialism and monarchism hadn’t been challenged by revolutionaries. Imagine a Europe that had no democratic reforms as a response to the fear of further revolution. It’s not hard to imagine that might have been a much more violent alternative history.

        “But regardless. Revolution is in a sense cutting off your arm because you have a headache.”

        I’d disagree. Revolution isn’t any single thing. It is simply what we call an event after the fact, an event that was a response to something else and to which further responses followed. Even the original American and French revolutionaries didn’t think their revolutions were going to be ‘revolutionary’ as we understand it for they were mostly hoping for restoration of a former state of society prior to the new imperialism.

        American colonists weren’t trying to start a violent revolution at all and didn’t initially even know it was going to turn into a revolution. They simply protested and demanded democratic reform. The government response was violence and so the colonists took actions that they saw as self-defense. Similarly, the French weren’t seeking a violent revolution either. If the king had willingly submitted to democratic reform, there would have been no revolution. But in his hope to maintain his authoritarian rule he forced the hand of the oppressed.

        Revolution isn’t always a good choice, but often it is the best choice available, to the degree it is meaningful to talk of choice at all. And so in situations such as ours, it is the only moral choice in that passivity is part of the system of political evil. Of course, you can’t know how it might end in advance. You can’t even know if a political action or political movement will later be labeled as revolutionary. All that we have before us is to act or not to act.

        Millions of Americans could march on state and federal governments demanding that we have a functioning democracy (removal of big biz and big money from politics, constitutional convention, etc), and then it would be the decision of the government officials in how to respond. They could try to do what the British and French empires did. Or they could do as the British later did in allowing peaceful transition of power in India. Or the military could take the lead as happened in Portugal in their withholding violence by refusing to enforce authoritarian rule.

        Even if revolution or something like it were inevitable, it doesn’t mean violence is inevitable, even if probable. Then again, violence is always probable, revolution or not. As for inevitability, the only absolutely guaranteed violent result is to do nothing and so continue the present violent status quo. Failure might lead to failure, violence to violence, but not necessarily. One thing is certain is that present failure and violence will continue until it is stopped.

        There is risk if you do nothing and risk if you do something. Though the advantage of the latter is that it is a risk that would lead to change, potentially beneficial change as has happened in the past when people took action. Actually, the more we perceive change as fearful and threatening, I’d argue that it increases the probability of violence, no matter which route we take.

        “At the same time as you say it’s not got much if anything to do with choice in the conventional sense.”

        That is the more important point.

        No revolution ever started because anyone chose revolution. Well, there is one exception. Portugal’s Carnation Revolution was chosen by the consensus of the military leaders and the soldiers under their command, or to be more precise they chose to allow it to happen and so it happened naturally once the oppression stopped. If there is a second American Revolution, it will be a result of events leading to events without anyone really seeing where it is going ahead of time.

        Whether or not there are those with peaceful or violent ideas about change, it doesn’t make certain what kind of change will follow. There no doubt were bloodthirsty revolutionaries in Portugal, but the military headed them off by offering the people another choice. But no doubt violence would likely follow if peaceful reform and transition was denied.

        This is similar to how the violent race wars of the early 19th century came after an earlier civil rights movement had been violently put down. But then that set the stage for the powers that be later deciding to try peaceful change in response to MLK’s pacifist movement. MLK didn’t come from nowhere.

        “Sort of being forced to choose (sic) between bad and worse vs good and bad.”

        We are beset by imperfect choices. That isn’t to say that imperfect choices can’t ever lead to good results, even entirely unexpected results, maybe not only a revolution of a government but possibly also a revolution of the mind.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. rauldukeblog says:

        to clarify; I didn’t mean you necessarily knew the stat about the Brits and executions but about the way the period is reported.

        It is an interesting and not abstract question – is the revolution the manifestation of failure or is the pre-revolutionary failure a manifestation of the revolt that follows.

        This gets into complex question of causation. Get Aristotle on the phone!

        but seriously it does have to do with issues of temporality and whether or not an “event” exists in the Hume Bundle sense. Is it “the revolution” or is that a series of associations or both?

        I go with it being both. For example for Louis xvi it was certainly a revolution when they chopped off his head but that doesn’t mean even that event wasn’t part of a bundle.

        This brings us to your point – when I said headaches and arms I meant (and should have clarified) that I have the same view you’re expressing – the singular event is only defined as such afterword’s.”Dr. Layman” has a good moment in a video deconstructing the idea/narrative of “The Renaissance” by pointing out that at the time no one was going around say, hey it’s “The Renaissance.”

        As to choice. I keep coming back to the idea that free will is an illusion and that “fate” is other people.

        You’re also correct to point out the continuity and cause and effect aspect. What are the causes of MLK? Vs the “great man theory” regardless of how great he was it’s again, a network of causes and effects or, bundles/associations.

        Liked by 1 person

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