‘Honest, Guv – we ain’t no subversives’ Sadly, that’s the truth. Last night [written 28 October 2002] on BBC2, True Spies, the first in a series on the extent of the i…
Source: ‘True Spies’
A Prescient Passage from Metamorphoses
Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk Xll, Melville trans.
Remind you of anything … does it?
... Here Rumour dwells, Her chosen home set on the highest peak, Constructed with a thousand apertures And countless entrances and never a door. It’s open night and day and built throughout Of echoing bronze; it all reverberates, Repeating voices, doubling what it hears. Inside, no peace, no silence anywhere, And yet no clamour of voices, but muted murmerings Like waves one hears of a remote sea, Or like a far-away thunder rumble, When Jove has clashed the rain-clouds. Crowds throng its halls, mobs of liteweights That come and go, and rumours everywhere, Thousands of them, false mixed with true, roaming to and fro, And words flit by, phrases all confused. Some pour their trash into idle ears, Some just pass it on, and as each Gossip adds something new so the story grows. Here is Credulity, here reckless Error, Groundless Delight, Whispers of unknown source, Sudden Sedition, Overwhelming Fears. All that goes on in heaven or sea or land Rumour observes and scours the whole wide world.
Peter Knight’s, Conspiracy Culture – From the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files
This asks the question as to how the prevalence of conspiracism relates to the Postmodernish sensibility. This is not so much as a review, but a few notes on conspiracism.
Richard Hofstadter’s ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ (in The Paranoid Style in American Politics – and Other Essays) written just as the modern version was really taking off (1963) takes the clinical notion of paranoia and uses it as a lens to examine the practice of conspiracist thinking. A rough summary of his thesis is that major sections of the American population had come to feel dispossessed of a nation forged in the two great struggles of a democratic-popular revolution and the war against the slave-owners. The ‘paranoid’ response to the feeling of dispossession has been that, rather than attempting a serious analysis, it constructs: ‘conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power’. It’s a good read and points out things which, once pointed are obvious (but certainly didn’t occur to me), such as that ‘a fundamental feature of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy’, eg the Ku Klux Klan’s taking on aspects of Catholicism. Continue reading “Notes on Conspiracism”
Raphael Samuel Capitulates to Relativism
The late Raphael Samuel, formerly of Ruskin College, is a revered figure on the Britsh Left, one of the founders of the ‘history from below’ movement, of the influential History Workshop Journal, and a key influence on the ‘public history’ historiography promoted by Ruskin College. It is surely significant then that this figure publically declared – at a conference in 1987 to discuss the New Left of thirty years previous – that he had no wish to live in a socialist society, and that what socialism meant to him was the ‘community’ of what might be called ‘the actually existing socialist movement'(see http://www.livejournal.com/users/david_murray/1451.html). Surely it is also unsurprising, as his own historiography is founded on the denial of any disticntion between history and myth, and thus deprives the present of any critical purchase on the past, and thus on itself. This is how he capitulates to rampant relativism: Continue reading “Raphael’s Relativism”
Ruskin College and Fascism
The text below was written for publication in The Trumpet, the Students’ Union journal of Ruskin College. Though this journal had previously published a pro-Hitler article it only published the first half of this reply, omitting any reference to the fascist propaganda they had published. Whether this had anything to do with one one of the editors of the journal being a Pagan is something I will not comment on
The word ‘ironic’ is, we’re told, overused – likewise for ‘surreal’. But I don’t know what other words to use about one aspect of the Burford Levellers’ Day, 15 May,2003. There were a number of men dressed in the uniform of the Parliamentary army of the English Civil War carrying replica period muskets. The irony .. or whatever .. is that many people in the political culture which created Levellers’ Day would wet themselves if working people armed themselves in order, as a community, to suppress muggers, twockers and vandals; or, as a political class, formed militias to defend the transition to a post-capitalist society. Indeed, one of the stalls at Burford was from Amnesty calling for the control of firearms. By whom? By nation States ! So the people are to be unarmed? Because of crime? Not quite. The major UK restrictive legislation on the ownership of firearms was in the 1920s, out of fear that the British working class would follow the example of the Russian Revolution.
This political culture will defend the ‘armed road’ in the past, but now thinks entirely within the framework of the capitalist state. It is wallowing, or rather is drowning, in Heritage. Continue reading “Picnic in the Ruins”
Unpubl. Letter to The London Review of Books on Slavo Zizek.
‘Lenin and Lacan eh ? wot a pair – fnaar, fnaar!’: as a Viz character might say. Indeed, Slavo Zizek’s review of d’Encausse’s book on Lenin reads like a parody out of an upmarket Viz. He offers a classic hack defence of Lenin, spiced up with references to various bourgeois cultural dissidents whom Lenin himself would have despised (Bataille, Junger, Oshima, Lacan).
It is clear that, for Zizek, Lenin figures entirely as a symbol. He tells us, following d’Encausse, that Lenin destroyed the ideas of his opponents, but not the opponents themselves. The anarchists murdered by the Cheka, and the Kronstadt dissidents slaughtered by the Red Army might well disagree. Continue reading “Zikek on Lenin”