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Tactics, not skirmishes - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:18 pm
Tactics, not skirmishes

My announcement at the end of September that Click Opera would end in February elicited some interesting reactions. The bit that seemed to spark the most empathy with Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher was my anti-dialectical, anti-democratic point (if by dialectics and democracy we mean OMG WTF Web 2.0 ghost-sparring) that "Click Opera has been a sort of karate course, and its comment facility has taught me to be more dialectical and -- above all -- the skill set of prolepsis, of anticipating reader objections. But is a more moderate, accessible and dialectical me really what the world needs? Doesn't the world need an immoderate, outrageous and concentrated me, just laying out things that only I could think, no matter how wrong they may be?"

Simon Reynolds on his Blissblog responded: "Yeah I agree prolepsis sucks, it seems to have taken a lot of the categorical oomph and thrust out of writing, unless you're just utterly bullheaded you will inevitably find yourself riddling what you do with qualification and nuancing... Strangely, prolepsis rarely seems to afflict comments boxers... but i guess they can shelter under aliases or "anonymous," they don't have to own their utterances in the same way."

Mark Fisher makes a similar point on his K-Punk blog: "For me, the answer is clear - I certainly don't want writers who "respond to criticisms", who patiently deal with "feedback", no matter how hostile and uncomprehending. I want writers who have the courage to pursue their own lines. What's interesting, I suppose, is the libidinal impulses at work in those who don't want that - who would rather have a writer spending their time on discussion boards and in comments boxes defending themselves, nuancing their position into innocuous irrelevance, or effectively abandoning it altogether in the name of some vacuous commitment to "debate".



Fisher relates this to Jodi Dean's book Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies, which says "that there is a necessary, not merely contingent, connection between the communicative landscape of Web 2.0 and the neocon and neoliberal right." Dean and Fisher think the right and left use Web 2.0 differently; "the right uses democratic openness to advance clear, divisive positions; the left appeals to the openness first, so that it becomes identified with openness as such rather than a set of determinate policies." To counter this, Fisher thinks the left needs to spend less time answering its critics or celebrating disruption, diversity and nuance, and more time laying out crisp, clear tactical suggestions -- a "new orthodoxy".

I must say I'm enjoying immensely the North Korean films at the Asian Women's Film Festival (ongoing here in Berlin). What I find so refreshing in these films is precisely their propagandistic intent. Rather than disrupting or engaging in dialogue, they lay out as didactically as Brecht's Lehrstücke the ideology of the party. They also transform this ideology into a code of ethics to live by, and a system of family, work and community relations.

This kind of thing generally takes a royal beating at the hands of Anglo-Saxon critics of Brecht. A conversation on BBC Radio 3's Night Waves last week saw one reactionary (but fairly typical) critic say that Brecht's contribution to The Threepenny Opera was dated because communism had been consigned, since 1989, to the pit of oblivion, whereas Weill's pastiches of 1920s jazz music were "timeless". For such a critic, a didactic play like The Measures Taken (in which a young comrade sacrifices himself for the movement and is told "You've helped to disseminate / Marxism's teachings and the / ABC of Communism") would clearly be anathema.



I find such criticism, itself, antique and out-of-touch. It assumes we're still in the American century, and that because Weill did well commercially in America whereas Brecht failed miserably, Weill "won". But communism remains strong as an idea in direct proportion to the degree to which the capitalist system is seen to be failing humanity worldwide. And capitalism is, by most accounts, failing rather badly just now. Just look at two newspaper reports run in the last few days. Dollar may fall to ¥50, lose reserve status: SMBC analyst is a report in yesterday's Japan Times of the predictions of Japanese financial analyst Daisuke Uno, who correctly predicted that the dollar would fall below ¥100 and the Dow Jones industrial average would sink below 7,000 after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. last year:

"We can no longer stop the big wave of dollar weakness... If the U.S. currency breaks through record levels, there will be no downside limit, and even coordinated intervention won't work," he said. China, India, Brazil and Russia called this year for a replacement to the dollar as the main reserve currency. Hossein Ghazavi, Iran's deputy central bank chief, said Sept. 13 the euro has overtaken the dollar as the main currency of Iran's foreign reserves. Uno predicted that after the dollar loses its reserve currency status, the U.S., Europe and Asia will form separate economic blocs."



An ethical angle on the crisis came in reports this week in German papers FAZ (the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and TAZ (Berlin's Tagezeitung) of the news coming out of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's conference in Rome this week, which stated starkly that the global economic crisis has had a devastating effect on world hunger, leaving one in six people in the world starving. In 2009 1.02 billion people are going hungry, the highest figure since 1970. "While the employees of large U.S. banks and investment firms can expect 140 billion U.S. dollars in salary and bonuses this year, more than one billion people go hungry." Those bonuses alone -- awarded this year for God only knows what -- could wipe out world hunger at a stroke.

34CommentReplyShare

zdover
zdover
Zac
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)

Solid, Momus.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)

Can't say I'm too sympathetic for the starving people. Why would you continue to have children in an environment where food is scarce? Shouldn't you have been spending your time working instead of fucking? Why should the civilized world bail these people out just because they made bad decisions? It's a slippery slope. Maybe I personally made a bad decision by dropping out of school and then getting fired from a decent job because of a positive drug test. Is that really my fault? I have a mental orientation that prevents me from succeeding. The government should step in and compensate me.


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nightspore
nightspore
Muster Mark
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)

You're right! And why should those children want to eat? Why get born into an environment where food is scarce? What were they thinking?

Edited at 2009-10-17 02:37 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent

nightspore
nightspore
Muster Mark
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)

The left's commitment to openness is what distinguishes it from the right, in the long run. When leftists start playing by rightwing rules, they start becoming rightwing. An old story.

As to dialsctic, etc: yeah, why prefer Plato and Wittgenstein to Lyndon LaRouche? When you can post screeds that sound just like anonymous comments?

I disagree with you a lot, but I admire your engagement with those who disagree with you, and will be sorry to see click opera go.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
Final Precedent & Itinerant Paper Blog

There is of course a precedent for summary, unannounced end: "The Red-Headed League is Dissolved. October 9, 1890"
If someone were give you a stack of stamped postcards as you begin your new life as itinerant poet/disciple of Basho/wanderer, would you send them back & permit the communications to be posted as a Paper Blog? (A further stack could be sent for each country in which you walk.)

Thank you for the posts about German awareness of the disconnect between hunger/capital.
Have just begun to read the Book of Scotlands (review to follow).
Regards,

H Wessells



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constructionism
constructionism
constructionism
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)

A good entry, it gives me much to think about. I like how you mix economics with art in your blog.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
Anglo-Saxon Journalism

Anglo-Saxon journalism seems to be based around the same old questions - is it big, is it sharky, does it dominate, did it break America? And, by association, do I look like a big, dominant, sharky, world-beating swine? There are only so many articles the Guardian can write about Damien Hirst and the YBAs - but still they prefer that to discussing a new artist.

Why? Because everyone in the chain of employment wants to protect themselves. The writer wants to aggrandise their work. The editor wants to present the 'smart', ie moneyed, lifestyle. Everyone waits for the race to end, then hangs around with the winning bet. Anglo-Saxon journalism is, at heart, a ligger, a groupie.

Anglo-Saxon journalism even seems to prefer a moan about things rather than, say, hunting out the good things in life. Which might mean,er, leaving the house!


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Witch Hunts

Guardian's witch hunt of Jan Moir snowballs into publishing her address via Twitter. It won't be snowballs aimed at her windows.

http://twitter.com/emilyhwilson twitters for calm


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robotmummies
robotmummies
ad reinhardt
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)

i wonder about whether money alone should be the solution to world hunger


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
You don't have to respond... or care

I disagree with you often. I especially disagree with some of your political leanings, such as the idea that 'western monoculture' is a more dangerous threat to the world than, say, a totalitarian regime. As aesthetically boring it might be, I'd rather see peasants eating Big Macs and jamming out to N'Sync than starving to death (this is a semi-false dichotomy, but you're smart enough to understand the point I think).

However, I enjoy your writing and outlook, and I would probably enjoy it even more if you didn't engage in prolepsis... either save it for the comments section, or don't do it at all and let the reader draw his own conclusion. You might come off as 'insensitive' or a 'doofus', but so what? At least it will be fun to read.


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ishinagami
ishinagami
Isaac Fischer
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)

The way i see it if your at an absolutely wonderful position in life where you have a great deal of money and power along with being able to have and do just about anything you want. Would someone really want the system that lets them live like that to go away.


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endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
The "new" orthodoxy

As we all, in true OMG-WTF-Web-2.0 fashion, don our ill-fitting Kim Jong-il hair-t-shirts, retrieve our blunt Brechtian hammers from our moldy cellars, and go rushing gleefully off to bash all "nuance" to pieces in a fit of anti-dialectical, just-do-what-we-tell-you-to-do fanaticism, it might be worth remembering that so much of the spluttering indignation aroused by Bush and co. had to do with their supposed lack of "nuance," while so much of the doe-eyed cooing over Obama has had to do with his "vacuous commitment to 'debate'."

So much for the golden imperative of getting beyond those evil and oppressive binaries and moving into the sunny poststructural/postmodern/altermodern uplands where "subtlety" and "nuance" roam free. Because we hold one truth to be self-evident: as our beloved anti-hero Bush once said, "You’re either with us or against us."


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
Re: The "new" orthodoxy

I'm not sure if any of that's being argued. What's important is creating a new narrative for the left, much like the right did during the 50s-80s... they consciously created a new story, a new "only way of being" by standing up for their values and promoting them through effective, confident (and moneyed) organization. It's a perfectly legitimate tactic to use, and now people who promote counter ideas are now working against this "natural reality" the right has created out of their own resoluteness and incredibly effective organization.

Calls for nuance only benefit the people in power, because nuance is a way of conceding your own point ... you're conceding your position to people who already have what they want from you. Nuance in this case is acquiescence, especially since the right has masterfully co-opted all the tenants and canons of liberal mid-late 20th century thought. Post-modernism is the tool of the right, now, and that's why Western academia is so ineffective at producing relevant outside views these days.

Comments like yours are pretty much why our reality continues the way it is. People throw their arms up and say, "whelp, not much we can do, because if we try, we'll be just as bad as the other guys ... who've basically figured out all the correct things to do! Let's not do something that works for us, too." Sometimes you need to do a little ass kicking.


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bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)

All the talk about the dollar collapsing looks feasible on paper, but is probably only a sort of wishful thinking.

Good interview on the state of the dollar here


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eeuuugh
eeuuugh
eeuuugh
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)

Graham Harman, who moves in the same blogging and philosophical circles as K-punk (the troll/grey vampire taxonomy was a joint effort), but is more academically centered, has been covering issues of how to structure debate more productively online, in open access journals as well as blogs. The most recent post is here... there are plenty of others equally as thought-provoking.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC)
Why am I a troll?

I am a longtime anon, and sometimes I agree with a blogger, sometimes disagree. Sometimes I comment off topic and sometimes I am rude. This is as positive as it is negative. Agreement means there's not much to add! The blog entry inspired me to think outside the box. I feel I know the blogger well enough to let emotions out. It's positive if you want it to be.

I am a troll because I once had a blog which received no comments. None. Somehow being bright, agreeable, 'on message' to any blogger who has more response to a 'dud' entry than it had, ever, is a bit galling.

Someone like Charlie Brooker gets 1000 ultra-compliant comments on Comment Is Free, by people who sound like they want to kick a woman to death, and who share her address, then I'm happy staying the hard-to-convince kind.


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krskrft
krskrft
Sun, Oct. 18th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)

Fisher relates this to Jodi Dean's book Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies, which says "that there is a necessary, not merely contingent, connection between the communicative landscape of Web 2.0 and the neocon and neoliberal right." Dean and Fisher think the right and left use Web 2.0 differently; "the right uses democratic openness to advance clear, divisive positions; the left appeals to the openness first, so that it becomes identified with openness as such rather than a set of determinate policies." To counter this, Fisher thinks the left needs to spend less time answering its critics or celebrating disruption, diversity and nuance, and more time laying out crisp, clear tactical suggestions -- a "new orthodoxy".

So, in other words, the left needs to become the right? I don't agree that there's any inherent value to the way the left supposedly uses the web for dialogue, but at the same time, I don't think the solution is to parrot the right-wing regime of absolutism.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 18th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)

Absolutism has never been the exclusive tool of the right, nor is it the end result of any confident promotion of values; people need to separate their bad memories of George W. Bush from the neutral value of assertion in itself. Obama shouldn't bend over backwards for banks and extremist right-wingers all in the name of the left's purported desire to be all-encompassing and inclusive. There are different issues that require different methods and values.

And remember, the right's greatest success in the second half of the 20th century was adopting the language, techniques, and strategy of the academic leftwing. Did that dilute their message any, or did it empower it tremendously?


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 18th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Those bonuses alone

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.
Teach him how to fish and well you know the rest..
It all sound very Buddhist but what's holding back emerging nations?


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 18th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: Those bonuses alone

what's holding back emerging nations???

the IMF and the World Bank, for starters. Next, pathetically lingering western imperialism, as well.


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