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”
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”
The Archers and the Suppression of the Temporal
It is, I suppose, a fairly obvious observation to say that one of the constitutive features of soaps is the absence of history: In that events occur but there are no changes to the framework in which those events occur
It seems to me that The Archers is an exceptionally good machine for the suppression of history, in the sense that so much is about the essential continuity of the central family and its relation to the land. In each generation there is a crisis over the manner of the succession, but it is always amicably resolved. In other words, the Archers’ farm lives in the sensibility of tradition and rurality. It is the Burkean moment of Conservatism. Now Brian’s outfit is seemingly quite different in that Brian goes out of his way to see his role as making profit and emphasising that farming is no different from any other business. Brian is always one for the latest thing. He is the Hayekian moment of conservatism. If Simon (Debbies’ ex-, who lectured the local college) had ever read to him that wonderful passage from the Communist Manifesto on ‘the constant revolutionising of production … all that is solid melts into air’ he would surely have approved – until he realised that it came from the pen of Old Charlie. Continue reading “Jenny Dahling and History”
Hills and Mountains, and ‘The Social Construction of Reality’
Movies in certain categories I avoid on a prejudice beyond argument:
- Anything with Hugh Grant .
- Anything set in Wales.
- Comedies of village life.
- Edwardian period pieces – actually it’s set in 1917, close enough; and I’ve just realised that no period in the UK after 1911 is characterised by the name of a monarch.
This movie is all of these. And it is just wonderful and brilliant.
The story, on the face of it, is stunningly silly: A couple of English cartographers arrive in a South Wales boarder village, take some measurements and announce that the local ‘mountain’ is actually 16 feet short of the 1,000 feet which is the official definition of a mountain – it is merely a hill. The villagers respond by a series of ruses to detain the cartographers in the village, meanwhile they carry bucketfulls of earth up the hill in order to make it into a mountain. Continue reading “Hills and Mountains”