“I got a coin in your palm
I can make it disappear
I got a card up my sleeve
Name it and I’ll pull it out your ear…”
— Bruce Springsteen, Magic
As an addition to our post, The Tragic Bordello, we offer the following short excavation.
In rewiring Tony Judt’s less than honarable efforts to define Jean Paul Sartre, we mentioned some of the events that contextualized the attitudes and actions of many of the Euro-American left.
To be aware in the post war moment was to be torn between a damned if you do damned if you don’t reality.
To be against Stalin and the Gulag’s was to be forced into offering direct or indirect support for Western fascism in its multiple forms, not the least of which being the Franco dictatorship.
Franco of course had been eased into power by the Nazis.
And of course, the Nazis had been eased into power by their future enemies.
On the other hand, to be critical of Franco was to be forced into offering direct or indirect support for Soviet tyranny in its multiple forms, not the least of which being the Gulags.
A typical simplistic reactionary defense from that era was for liberals and or conservatives to say in the face of Soviet or Western left criticism of this two-headed systemic hypocrisy: that’s just whataboutism.
Whataboutism was a phrase coined to deflect two aspects of Soviet propaganda. On the one hand the Soviets, soaked in blood, and ramming the dialectic up the world’s ass, had multiple reasons to attempt deflection.
On the other the facts remained that while Gulag’s were as monstrous as concentration camps, the truth was, the “free West” was in bed with Franco and was using former Nazis to torture and execute people and to build better, further, higher, faster rockets.
And practicing apartheid at home and an imperial boot abroad.
Which brings us to Guatemala.
Specifically though our focus is on the current non-use of it as a fact within the contemporary historical moment.
That the United States illegally, immorally, and stupidly overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatemala, is however heinous, not our point.
As we posted in The Tragic Bordello:
“A right-wing coup in Guatemala, financed by the CIA, overthrew the popularly elected Government of Jacobo Arbenz, which had nationalized the property of the United Fruit Company. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s law firm had written the United Fruit contracts with Guatemala in the ’30s; Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, John Moors Cabot, was a major United Fruit shareholder; CIA director Allen Dulles had been president of United Fruit; and Allen Dulles’s predecessor as CIA director, Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, became a United Fruit vice-president in 1955.”
The issue here then is, not the crime per se but the current adamant insistence by the establishment media in all forms and across the political spectrum that tells us, Trump Incorporated – the in your face grifting, the blatant merging of private and corporate in a neon-soaked fascism – is new – a radical departure from previous norms.
This is Memory Incorporated.
This fabricated narrative not only replaces History, which is public memory but it replaces private memory, which is identity, with the official lie.
By refusing to excavate the past the media absolves itself of coming to terms with its own history of complicity. It then allows it to position itself as outside of the current crisis as honest broker.
It creates an atmosphere of irresponsibility and systemic distortions and then hysterically denounces any attempts to address the systemic industrial scale gaslighting – except in its approved forms.
This of course is the central plank of Guy Dabord’s critique and Baudrillard and they in turn overlap with dozens of others who have pointed out the mirror aspect of politics and marketing.
They are not alone – even if the other critics are reversed fun house mirror distortions. Academics, ranging from left of center reactionary chancers like Camille Paglia (see notes at the end of The Tragic Bordello) gain traction (with establishment media assistance as well as so called alternative media) for a-historical reactionary denunciations of the boogeyman they define as “Postmodernism” and earnest liberals like, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, can offer rhetorical pap, that “George W. Bush kind of followed the rules” – a statement that, even if one grants the premise, is no more or less rancid then saying with a straight face, so did Pinochet.
But of course the rules followed included, the unconstitutional establishment of an Orwellian police state, an international crusade that killed millions, destabilized the precarious if morally dubious old order, and shattered the economy; including but is not limited to moral turpitude, laissez-faire ethnic cleansing in New Orleans, and god only knows what else as most of the imperial presidency lives under a mountain of state secrets.
But because one of the critics is a strutting bi-sexual self-proclaimed new wave feminist, and the other is a liberal, Black woman writer from Africa, criticism is immediately defined as sexist, misogynistic, racist, Trump supporting fascism.
That the he kind of followed the rules narrative is also a reactionary form of nostalgia designed to alleviate complicit liberals from their shared responsibility in creating the opportunity for Trump to emerge from the shadows, is of course hidden within the forms of the official narrative.
Thus one can be told by earnest leftists, that the left does not engage in grifting or tolerate cult’s of personality – all the while dismissing as evidence the grifting and cult atmosphere in which the entire system is encased.
This in turn attaches to the long standing tradition in America of, anti-intellectualism.In this atmosphere the most sophisticated deconstruction of the Tragic Bordello and Memory Incorporated, is, The Matrix.
And of course we use sophisticated, both loosely and provisionally.
With the fourth installment due some time soon we can expect breathless “think pieces” in all the usual collaborationist platforms like The New Yorker, The New York Times and of course among the so called hep kats of the “alternative media” – none of whom would spend three seconds discussing Pynchon, or Calvino – and certainly not with any depth and certainly not as prisms through which we might understand contemporary politics.
After all, Postmodernism is defined by the reactionaries as only being Foucault and company and thus, captured, reduced to obscurity, foolishness and “French”* – all of which in both right wing, liberal and left forms, serves the purpose of closing down any meaningful discussion of the historical facts.
Of course to go back to the coup in Guatemala is to open the door to the entire rancid epic of prewar support for fascism, and post war re-purposing of fascists.
If you’re going to honestly discuss the genocides in Central and South America, and who was involved then at or near the top of the list will be the former Nazis whisked out of Europe by everyone and deposited in power everywhere from Bolivia to Chile to NASA.
And across the cultural landscape we find outbreaks of hysteria in which the hysterics bray for honesty – the right wing anti-corporate populists, the left wing anti-corporate populists, and as was the case previously both end up merging with various iterations of gangsterism and fascism.
Anyone who listens to Nigel Farage and doesn’t hear echoes of Mussolini and Oswald Mosley and the early rages of the 20th century isn’t paying attention.
Anyone who listens to so called alternative media and doesn’t hear echoes of Father Coughlin and Hughey Long, and the early rages of the 20th century isn’t paying attention.
Welcome to The Tragic Bordello.
*”French” of course being colonized and transformed into a signifier for all things “wrong” “foreign/wrong” and incomprehensible precisely because they are “French” and therefore, wrong.
Or as Steve Martin put it in a sly bit of sarcasm: “The French! They’ve got a damn word for everything.”
And of course it should come as no surprise that Baudrillard did not take The Matrix seriously despite its claim to being a gloss if not fellow traveler with Baudrillard’s ideas.