“There is no present or future-only the past, happening over and over again-now.”
— Eugene O’Neil, Moon for the Misbegotten.
“Aint that America, little pink houses, for you an me.”
— John Mellencamp, Pink Houses
A truism of anti-Postmodernist rage and criticism, is the assertion that Postmodernism asserts facts are in fact, fiction.
In fact (sic) Postmodernism asserts that the methodology employed by those who claim to be employing objectivity, are analogous to those employed by writers of fiction.
An assertion which, ironically, is based on a set of objective facts.
What they mean is that the arrangement of events, the creation of chronology, the exclusion of facts, and the inclusion of other facts, is a kind of fiction.
And of course the contextualizing facts of the author (historian, philosopher or politician) are a question of forces outside of the individual’s consideration – including but not limited to, class, education, and various orientations.
For example, Saving Private Ryan traffics in a series of fictions that suggest a wider truth. The film comes to represent a set of facts and enters the discourse as a fictional-fact and a factual-fiction.
The response that “art” a priori, does that is as shallow and wide as the film.
Saving Private Ryan is not Paths of Glory or Castle Keep (let alone, A Midnight Clear) all of which as “art” are fiction as fact but are of greater depth and complexity and not used as propaganda.
The idea that a “work of objective fact” like a documentary could in fact (sic!) be fiction because of ordering, and exclusion and inclusion, is rejected if discussed at all.
And yet, Ken Burns documentary “about the war in Vietnam” has been accurately criticized for its preposterous fictions – the exclusion of pivotal figures, the (re)use of out of date and no longer taken seriously tropes, the use of dead on arrival narratives that were in cryogenic storage from the era of Cold War propaganda (i.e., fiction) all reveal the documentary to be a film (and fiction or a disingenuous hybrid) rather than a documentary.
Of course the machinery of the Culture Industry does not allow a wider discussion of this issue and criticism is ushered off to the margins if it’s acknowledged at all.
The first rule of The Culture Industry is, don’t discuss The Culture Industry.
The postmodernists of course, in the long shadow of the calamities of the 20th century took as their primary target the large scale meta narratives about which, as one of their loose band said, they were essentially, suspicious.
This as one might expect, infuriated the political class, their camp followers, and their situational allies in the clergy, establishment media and other circles of organized crime.
This is and always has been an old argument going back to Plato’s beta tests for fascism against what he was certain was the evil moral relativism of scoundrels like Heraclitus.
Or as Baudelaire said in the middle of the 19th century: Brother hypocrite, I salute you.
For which he was arrested and threatened with prison.
The powers that be have both a long memory and the brain of a goldfish but they cannot function if deviants are running around telling everyone the emperor has no clothes.
The reactionary response has over the preceding decades been as dreary and predictable as any other paint by numbers social scheme.
In the wake of Postmodernism being declared apostate, the artificial or fictional narrative as fact, proliferates.
Consider the fiction in today’s The Guardian, The Decade that Shook America, by David Smith.
The premise of this short story is that the swing from “Obama” to “Trump” has its roots in the several factors that almost all orbit each other in the ten years between 2010 and 2020.
Except for when Smith attaches the rise of Trump to the Reagan years, which receive all of one sentence.
The subtitle for the essay asserts that the decade that went from Obama to Trump will confound future historians.
That of course is an opinion pretending to be an objective truth.*
The truth is of course that first, “Trump” does not exist as the binary alternative to “Obama” nor does “Obama” exist as the binary reverse or opposite of “Trump” but both exist as exactly what one would expect in the corporate gulag of America Incorporated.
Secondly, the assertion of confusion, of an inherent mystery clouds what is both obvious and factual – they both emerge from events that reach back to the founding of the nation.
Third, and just as important, is that “Obama” engaged in a host of actions that lead directly to “Trump” including but not limited to – his hubris and narcissism that precluded the drudgery of fund-raising and plank building which left the Democratic party weak and in disarray after his last term, the expansion of the Orwellian Panopticon, the greatest number of prosecutions under the Espionage Act in the history of the statute, the bailout of the ruling class at the expense of everyone and everything else (a fact that like Reagan receives a scant perfunctory few lines in Smith’s fiction), and as a seldom discussed crowning achievement, the assertion that the government can use what it claims is secret evidence to justify the execution of an American citizen.
If all of that weren’t enough, Smith leaves out the inherent moral and practical bankruptcy of Obama’s can’t we all just be reasonable and get along philosophy which was crushed by Mitch McConnell’s political lynching of Merrick Garland.
While that reveals McConnell as a not so crypto Confederate Revisionist bigot, it reveals Obama as not just a fool but a dangerous fool.
So committed to being the Black friend everyone in White America can say they like, he was psychologically incapable of expressing the truth – the Republicans are and always have been (since they changed places with the Democrats during Reconstruction) the party of bigots and the Democrats are the party (since the psychopath LBJ) that fundamentally won’t do anything about the Republicans, and seeking what amounts to minor tweaks of the system in an endless effort to both appease the Republicans and crush the left wing of their own gang.
Turning again to the problematic if still often on point Gore Vidal, we consider his quip that there is one political party in America – the property party with a conservative wing and a liberal wing but both are different sides of the same coin.
Missing in Smith’s short story is any mention of Nancy were capitalists get used to it Pelosi.
Wrapped now in the desperation of millions she is like Robert Mueller, re-purposed as a champion of freedom and the rule of law when in truth she is a sinister agent of state terror.
This is the unspoken agenda of Smith’s fiction – to deliberately ignore the history of how we arrived at this juncture.
“Trump” is curated as both anomaly and (if he wins a second term or steals it) as an inevitable boogeyman from the depths of the dark side of America’s origin story.
This in turn creates a fictional “Obama” as the same thing – anomaly and hero predicted like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone.
This in turn is a typical trope – not just the hero vs villain of history and myth but the obscuring cover narrative that repeats the obscuring fictions and acts to hide the gears of the machine.
Vichy Liberal, David Remnick, editor of the senile collaborationist rag, The New Yorker, is invoked and declares “We (Americans) are a contradictory people.”
Versus, say the Russians who give us Stalin, Putin, and Chekhov and Gogol, or the French who give us Vichy and Serge Gainsbourg; Petain and Matisse, or the British who give us Enoch Powell and Monty Python, or the Germans who give us Hesse and trains whistling in the distance.
An intelligent and honest speaker would have said, human beings are contradictory, and Americans in theory being human, are no different.
This is outside of the purview of both Remnick, Smith and The Guardian.
Instead what we are being sold is yet another myth about American Exceptionalism.
In this case it is a meta myth in which even the catastrophes are exceptional – unique and thus distinct from the others who inhabit the earth alongside histories’ chosen people.
The deeper purpose is to lay the foundation for excusing the liberals for making “Trump” both possible and inevitable.
Missing is a host of other facts – including but not limited to Obama’s connection to Ted Kennedy which in turn contextualizes Obama as not ideologically opposed to the Clintons but jealous and competitive, devoid of a political vision that is distinct and is in truth only a display of crass power and hubris.
This in turn offers cover for the Bernie Sanders cadre who are pathologically committed to denouncing “neo-liberalism” and “Clintonian triangulation” as sins instead of dealing with the blunt and ugly facts that contextualized Bill Clinton’s opposition to the consistently unellectable left of the Democratic party and the corporate fascism of the Reaganites and the Bushes.
But to recognize those facts would in turn open the discussion to how Reagan was a long shadow cast by the still unresolved battles of the 1960s (themselves an echo and continuation of previous battles) which in turn completely erases Smith’s assertion that the crucial moment was the cultural split between “Obama” and “Trump.”
Resting his assertion of the fulcrum on Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton vs “Trump” Smith offers historical cotton candy.
Among the hundreds of examples that prove him shallow and toxic we turn to then leftist and later reactionary John Dos Passos writing in the 1920s:
“The rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer, small farmers were being squeezed out, workingmen were working twelve hours a day for a bare living; profits were for the rich, the law was for the rich, the cops were for the rich;”
Or as a noted jazz mystic said:
The past aint even hardly past.
See the fiction here:
*The Guardian and its allies would of course say the article is an opinion piece.
That its toxic lack of depth and that it’s indistinguishable from their so called journalism is an issue that is not on their radar.
In another example of the fictionalizing conducted by the self-proclaimed objective media, we have today a profile of Nancy Pelosi in, The Guardian.
Tossing its liberal left sense of ethics overboard it frames the Pelosi story as one of feminist empowerment in the face of the blunt trauma of Trump’s porcine violence and antagonism towards women generally and everything else specifically.
That Pelosi’s life is a love letter to capitalism, which in theory makes her The Guardian’s sworn enemy, is not an issue.
That, “we’re capitalists get used to it” should be enshrined at the entrance to a museum of East German Kool and the politics of the damned, is, for the moment erased from the narrative.
That this is exactly and precisely an example of what the PoMos were laughing about, is a non-issue.
That should the need arise her previous with you no matter what affection for Wall Street can be resurrected goes without saying – but speaks loudly to the fictional method of the media, the feckless nature of its situational ethics, and of course is yet another example of how a rancid goon like Trump can scream about “fake news” and be understood by his atavistic ginned up base – because he’s right, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
See the short story here: