What is Hollywood, you ask, dear children? A quorum of whores babbling endlessly on about fucking while the bordello is razed for a penny arcade -- Paul Bern

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Ellul says, among other things, that propaganda is conjunct to democracy, for the obvious reason that there needs to be a mutual fluxing of knowledge (episteme) and power between rulers and ruled that is not required in a dictatorship or monarchy, where power must every so often be displayed directly & unambiguously, ideally through randomness and terror. 

In other words: the players in such a game must present tangible and potent images of themselves -- to each other. The mass must recognize its image in the mirror-glass of its leadership. In democracies, even in “Chinese Democracies”, consequently, images serve as a common means of exchange, an intermediate term between knowledge and power. Social Engineering from Disaster Capitalism, to Lady Gaga, to school lunches must be IMAGED and SOLD before implementation. 

In the Technological Society, Media function as orgone accumulators of the irrational – if enough particles crystallize around certain subjects – a ground for human action can be perceived – it becomes “actionable” -- the government acts in the name of the people, and celebrates itself, and then, at a later moment, the whole thing is easily transformed into myth. Even in the Soviets, images were required to establish the mutual majesty of both state and proletariat. But that royalist word “majesty”, one of the key subtexts of the West, hides a little the dynamic inter/shadow play of aura between power and its subjects.

Power-aesthetics, the erotics of images, and a whole class of cheerleading RELATIONAL antinomies that pussyfoot approvingly around them, like hot, quirky, cool, sexy: word-acts that are the equivalent of the fist pump or the Heil Hitler, the interlock of the hive around the queen – these, too, are part of civilization. Language is no longer just the Benjaminian caption around these image-utterances. 

Images don’t need explication or explanation now that they are the outnumbering crowd that hovers like a sky or washes us like an ocean. Despite their expressive poverty, these word-acts are our way of interacting in this arena. They signal a relative range of psychic engagement in the realm of power-aesthetics, from “I privately recognize the image and the power behind it but I am cool  to it” to  “I need to be seen in approval of this visible force pressing on us, comrades.”

Those of us who live in this world of ruined, sputtering images, which are now thrusting us back into orality, cannot now do without images, and on the whole the use of them tends to stabilize and harmonize as much as it stupefies. It is this undeniable trinity that is so resented, but never realistically challenged, by the revolutionary cadres of the 20th century (the Lukacses, Foucaults, and Debords of the world) but the fight against images (icons, fetishes) from Plato to the Taliban really seems dystopian, when cast in this light -- and one suspects that these people, in all sincere good faith, would prefer rivers of blood in the streets, than fluent images on the screens.

Images of power, or images with power, are more efficient and acceptable, than the dark burning radiance of the act/thing itself, which we would likely not survive. The unspoken terror unearthed by the story in Marker’s film of Medvedkin and Vertov living in the same building in the 30s and never speaking to each other.

But there is a double bind, here. Too often, the mediated functions as a spiritual decoy so that they can blow us away in the real world. The surrogating, subtituitive function of the image is not unlike the transubstantiation of the Host. It's a mystical operation. People laugh at the quaint cannibalistic ethos of communion, but is it any different, really, than how we routinely accept images as envois from the Real?

Yet, the fact remains, when power structures abandon their supple traffic in images for any kind of actualization, you must gaze keenly out into the hills. The killing fields can’t be far off, in some secret, unimaged place.

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