Archives for category: Uncategorized

The line for almost all gigs that I and my partners play starts in the rear–first-come, first-served. That puts me in good company; the vast field of unrecognized musicians, the status of almost all my current partners. Unlike the cliques of career-oriented musicians, the field is unlimited, and adventurous playing is always a possibility, since our first thought is our own pleasure in playing and discovery. My only complaint is the long hours it takes to organize a tour, and the financial limitation on where we can go. To play the career game is not an option, for, as i argue in The Free Musics , that would limit the range of free playing, which is well worth the trouble. 

It helps to observe the situation objectively. Given the huge number of performance-oriented musicians today, it’s increasingly difficult for musicians to get gigs who have not sought or gained approval from the music world of media and institutions, or are not part of a career-oriented clique. For myself this has meant abandoning the search to perform in NY; I organize in the more accessible Midwest and South instead. I’d rather spend my time traveling than hassling. Now it seems the same in Europe, with the drop in funded series, whose independent curators usually paid little attention to a musician’s media value.

Today in the states it is rare for curators to make decisions by actually listening to the music and being selectively excited by it. Some operate in terms of relative market value, with of course the consistently media-supported names at the top, whom they will exclusively, or preferably book. Others cater to the bulk of musicians who lack such status. In either case, to make a decision based on a judgment about the specific music, as heard on a sample recording, is out of the question. For those booking musicians of no media significance it seems undemocratic to do so. No one wants to say, ‘THIS is the music I want to make happen.” That would be called elitist, and would be criticized for exercising the power to make decisions. Left-culture Americans in general don’t like to admit they have power; even when they obviously do–all power is supposedly evil, so it must be denied. They’d rather think they’re “serving the people”–which means every single one who asks to perform will be allowed to do so in an orderly, bureaucratic fashion.

Most audience members are good consumers; they trust in the media-created hierarchy, the brand names. They are egalitarian when they drop a couple bucks in the hat at a house show, but wouldn’t dream of treating socially validated musicians like that, or comparing the two acts musically. Musicians of no known value are lumped together on one plane, and the approved names on another, and like the rich and poor in our society,  increasingly the two are distanced socially and economically and never meet. Is the distance musically that great? What comes into play is a prime example of the “managing of consent”, which this audience would quickly critique if the topic were politics, but goes unnoticed here. Why is that? Is the honor of Art at stake?

If curators of media-recognized and of -unrecognized musicians wanted to be truly democratic they would take seriously the actual music of anyone who asks to perform, and book according to their judgment. They would have to be willing to  take risks and face criticism for the sake of the music. It might take a cultural revolution for that to come about.



Right now many are plunged into defending what they never imagined needed defending. They thought things were progressing slowly forward; suddenly the ground is ripped out from under them.  The hope is that somehow the world might get back on track, that is, the same track as before. That would mean this period of time is a total loss, a waste of time, a setback; the status quo might never be restored. The situation seems absolutely negative and destructive. Without glossing over the suffering coming down the pike, can we a imagine a future from which we look back and see that this situation has instead been positive?

This introduces the basic question I want to ask: how do we come to fundamentally new ways of thinking? How do we become frustrated on a deep level with the limitations of our thought patterns, our explanations and automatic behavior and responses? Why would we even allow frustration to enter without knowing there is a satisfying escape from it? Why, if human existence is the search for security and satisfaction, would humans disrupt their stability, which they can plainly see will plunge them into suffering? That suffering is not just internal conflict but isolation from others. You see a problem, a flaw in your thinking you share with others and you tell them about it. Those others might agree if pressed, but that makes them fear you and turn against you: “I don’t want to start down that road, I need the company of others. You must want to suffer, for peace of mind is easily available.” You say, “Bear with me” but to bear something is suffering. To undermine oneself, with no hope of overcoming the isolation, goes against the grain of the truism “man is a social being.”

Self-heroicizing, to see oneself as an avant-garde that will later be joined by the others, perhaps after one’s death, is the all-too-human consolation that might keep one going. Or rather it kept some going in the past but has run out of steam. It is the view from a non-existent future, and may even be correct, yet it is a diversion that cripples the movement of thought, which is only present. That is, thought is movement; I am convinced this moment of what did not yet convince me a moment before, yet I am somehow the same person. That is a mystery even though it obviously happens, or we might say, happens to us.

We can thoroughly enjoy the place where we stand only when we learn to dance on this shaky ground. Humans need solid ground, known as knowledge, that the herd will return each year, that planted seeds will grow, and that the concepts planted through media, social pressure, and education will yield stability and self-recognition from one day, one year, to the next. And yet, for some reason that need is not enough. Apparently there is some excitement to abandoning security and embracing where thought and intuition takes us, following a path without knowing where it leads. This is not without fear, but a fear that provokes laughter and more boldness. That is how we originate ourselves and originate the world—see it new, make it new. That is living, not surviving, and we are probably not the fittest! We are launched: “Look ma, no hands!” Some will caution: “How foolish, you’ll surely crash.” Well, that cow has already left the barn.

When Trump lied boldly and with impunity he released us to think and act just as fearlessly. It’s our choice. The cannon is loose on a sea everyone knows is rocky, crashing around on the deck and threatening the ship. It is sheer, dumb weight, unaware of where it’s going, mere acting out. Trump’s self-unleashing was admired by followers as a desire for freedom. To us likewise it says, “unleash yourselves.” We are however free to do it differently. Instead of acting out, we can choose to be aware and act out of awareness. We can get our sea legs and move around swiftly and deftly, acknowledging but not trapped in worrying about the damage.

After the performance the other night, however, a Hamilton actor tried to batten down the hatches. He delivered a speech to Pence, in the audience: “Please, sir, protect us.” That was not a bold but a fearful act on bended knee, the humble peasant petitioning the king. Not a word of counter-threat if the petition is denied! Claiming to speak for us, it proclaimed our powerlessness in the hope not to be trampled by the army of elephants chomping at the bit, as if the king himself was not leading the charge. While the audience applauded, the speech effectively recognized and respected Trump’s power. It was exactly the response desired by those who have declared war on us. If not Pence, certainly Trump laughed up his sleeve at hearing it. Publicly he asked for the peasant to take back his plea; even a petition is offensive.

The bull in the china shop is already wrecking the place. It is futile and demeaning to go around trying to glue the pieces back together.

We are entering an era where those holding legal and armed power will seek to roll the entire world back to before the watershed of the sixties, leaving only technology and capital in place. Trump believes he has the power and legitimacy to accomplish this revolution from his perch above. As for those who resist, he has said he will change the libel laws, aiming to put any dissenting views out of business. This restitution of censorship will punish any media that opposes him, including posts such as this. After Trump’s election his campaign manager Conway threatened Harry Reid, the head Democratic senator, with legal action for his prior and preemptively any future criticism. Trump also did not deny he might still prosecute Hillary.

These are not fools talking through their hats. The arbitrariness of autocracy is right on target. Whatever they actually do, they intend to have a chilling effect, such as: “From now on let’s be a little careful what we say in public.” Such defeatism and plea-bargaining, as if we are guilty of something, is already filling the air.

The new situation Trump has created we can turn to our use, emancipating us from any such thinking. It is the old normal, pragmatic realism, and we are no longer obligated to follow it. A new reality is in the works and we’re already part of it.

The bullies talk big but fear us, as well they should. “We” are not only the massive Democratic party and major institutions but the 73% of eligible voters that either voted against Trump or were suppressed, sat on their hands in disgust at the choice, or simply didn’t care to vote. (That figure: 164 million out of 225 million eligible voters). The fox thinks he’s in the henhouse, which now includes those whom p.c. protected from hate, joined now by their erstwhile protectors–Reid, Hillary, the NY Times and all the p.c. liberals. And why would Obama himself be immune, should he stop being conciliatory? Or any of his voters who become disillusioned turncoats, as surely some will?

Occupy said “We are the 99%,” a dream of common interest and unity. We open our eyes and see that Trump has brought this closer to reality. And let’s not forget: Occupy did not just follow the rural/urban demographic split. Some of those 61 million who pulled the Trump lever were awakened by, active in, or supportive of Occupy just five years ago, and are waiting to see what will happen now. Many voted simply for the one promising the most radical shakeup of the status quo. That’s what we have now. There is something in this that we have also desired. Really, how many of us wanted business as usual?

People are frightened of violence and fear we are moving into that situation, with all those holding the weapons trained against us. That is reasonable, but the surest path to violence is to act weak and beg sympathy from those with whip in hand; it will not save us. Dogs sense fear as a sign of submissiveness and attack, yet it is their own fear that is behind it. We must not be fooled by those who have unilaterally declared war on us. This is not 1932 Germany, they are not Nazis, and we are not weak unless we choose to see ourselves that way. They are the few and we are the many.

Our speech should be, “If you so much as breathe your putrid breath on us you will be digging your own grave. We are watching your every step and do not fear what you can do. You stand on the love and loyalty of your so-called constituency but we have the will and ability to pull them right out from under your feet. We will isolate you and force you into a dungeon of misery; then you will be the ones begging protection. At best we will allow you to eke out your lives without physical harm, which is more than you offer us.”

Reading about Arthur Rimbaud’s “Season in Hell”: “The Future is his domain; hence, like Nietzsche, he refuses ressentiment’s obsessive nursing of past grievance.” * (Ressentiment is very close to resentment, but as Nietzsche used it, is rage that is both personal—psychological–and social hostility to those considered the cause of one’s misfortune.)

This was in 1870 or so, when the concept of Progress towards a better future for all was widely believed. Rimbaud had a grievance against the world, and saw himself not as a poet, one of the acceptable roles, but a visionary. His mission lasted from age fifteen to nineteen, when he gave up in despair, but it was still enough time for him to be celebrated today as the greatest poet/visionary of modern times.

It is that Progress, Rimbaud’s youthful though ambivalent faith, which has disappeared, yielding a collective ressentiment that is the major motivation for the Trump presidency.

For those who detest history, I’m sorry, but history has brought us to this point. Of course, it is a narrative and is debatable, but without that debate, based on facts and interpretation, we will never get beyond anger, self-pity, and withdrawal into helplessness. War has been declared on us, and as I said in my last post, it is time for an avant-garde not dependent on the old guard, its defense of “art,” its institutions and media.

Neoliberalism, beginning in the late 70s and coming to power with Reagan, set out to eliminate the visionary future that was the successor of Rimbaud’s vision. It had sustained not only socialists but the working class and the American Dream, whose locus was the Democratic Party, the reason that is today called “the left.”  Neoliberalism reduced Progress for all human existence to the trickle-down from above theory—first let the rich get richer, then maybe something will be left over. This returns us to the medieval platitude that we will always have the poor with us, “us” being the powers that be. Progress would henceforth be the sole domain of the global advance of capitalism, with nothing allowed to stand in the way. That was the plan.

This divided the political sphere. Political liberals wanted compromise; they still believed it possible to base the social order on capitalist expansion and have social benefits for all. In the sixties this was called “guns” (the “hot” war against Vietnam, since any Communist country would block world capital/market expansion) and “butter” (the Great Society—Medicare, Poverty Program, Voting Rights, etc.). Conservatives said this was unrealistic; capital needed everything it could get its hands on to survive and to expand. They were right, capital is always in crisis if it can’t expand, and it is “too big to fail.” The Great Society would have to be sacrificed, along with any regulations for human benefit that hamper expansion. For instance, a future for human existence requires response to the damage capital has done to the environment. To deny climate change and refuse to make the massive corrections it requires is to say, there is no future for humanity except what capitalism permits.

Since all this takes place in a democratic form of government, enough people must be persuaded and organized to execute the design. This is why neoliberalism had to be joined to neoconservatism, which was the validation, fostering, and politicization of ressentiment. It was a package deal. One hand takes away the better future-for-all and the other offers a better future limited to some. It is more palatable to call it respect and dignity. These are believed to be a limited commodity; such that those who are not getting their share must take it away from others. The new vision would be a seeming contradiction: the future would return us to the fifties, the period before Civil Rights began the sixties expansion of the ranks of those the government recognized as full humans.

What popularly evoked generosity for the other, the election of Obama, would be fiercely blocked during his eight years and turn into ressentiment against the other, which neo-conservatism and its alt-right, gun rights, anti-abortion, Christian identity, and white supremacy groups had long been preparing for. Without a future for all there is no way to avoid ressentiment against those patronized by liberal governments, who seem to be eating up the future that could have been everyone’s.

The movement draws upon racism but is primarily an attack on the government, whose strength has been to act as buffer, protecting and advancing those “identities” that were added to the list of human beings in the sixties. The catchword for that protection was “p.c.” and its support can be called either guilt or concern for the welfare of others. Today when liberals are stripped of political power, no longer able to enforce political correctness, the guilt they relied on among those who were economically and socially secure is no longer effective. Not only that, the former protectors are  themselves joined to those they thought they could protect. This means a major distinction of class, in the shape of liberal protectors and recipient protected, has just been eliminated.

The white supremacist government backed by armed supporters just elected is attacked by liberals as ignorant. This is patently true and barely denied: Trump is a naif, openly amazed to find out what the job of president entailed, just as he had consistently disregarded factual truth. But the liberals are equally naïve and dumb if they do not see how this situation came about and continue as if nothing has changed. They act as if the return to the status quo—guns and butter, which has been the Democrats program all along–will change the situation.

People in shock see that the situation is deep with implications but it hasn’t yet occurred to many that the meaning of this revolution is that capitalism is maybe not too big to fail. Unwittingly, though the markets now think differently, Trump may be leading us straight to that failure, without the aid of any leftist visionaries. Revolutions are nothing if not surprises. We are caught unawares, woken up, rubbing our eyes: What do we see?

Nativist movements such as Trump are poised to sweep the world, and sweep away anything in the path of capital. We are in the opening of a revolutionary phase, but it is only the opening. To be as naïve as those who have declared war on us is like throwing in the towel before we’ve even gotten wet.

* Ross Posnock, Renunciation [2016], p. 88

Trump is the final triumph of neo-conservatism after almost fifty years of trying (Nixon’s “silent majority”). What looked to be on its last legs was able to grab the only thing worth having: power to implement its program. Neo-conservatism has been the populist sugar coating covering neo-liberalism’s class warfare, its cultural ally. From its origin neo-conservatism has been the counter to the sixties rebellion, which makes Trump America’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who in 2007 came to power in France with the promise to end “the spirit of 68” for good. Since it was neo-conservatism that galvanized the base, Trump, the neo-liberal minus the persuasive multi-culturalism, must fulfill it.

In 2008, when I heard Obama say at a local rally “and there will be poetry in the schools,” I openly wept–he hit my vulnerable spot right there. Now that even that dream is a laughing matter is of prime significance to artists and art-musicians today, for the grand celebration going on right now is at their expense. For those who want their music to be media-visible it should bring them to re-examine their relation to that sixties heritage and the place they might have in the new regime. Where Obama was a gentle neo-liberal, who promised a place for art, the new regime promises to be a brutal, authoritarian version, censoring anything that reminds us even vaguely of the free-wheeling artistic movements of the past. The compromise by which the sixties “artistic critique” was promoted in order to suppress its “political critique” is now abandoned. Say goodbye to “Everyone is an artist,” the populist mantra that has filled art and music schools since the 90s and was linked to social and even economic progress.

That puts artists who achieved careers under the old regime on the spot, since they owe their positions to a tacit agreement to represent the enshrined sixties heritage. They can either survive by taking a more submissive position (no balking at cutbacks),* or moving towards more politicized art (unambiguous propaganda), or hiding out (the honored position of modernist “internal exile” where invisibility is the price of doing art). A fourth option is to take the arts out of the safe, gentle-neoliberal mold all art and art music careers have depended on. That would create an avant-garde that is truly outcast and no longer playing the role of marginalized outcast, innovative experimenter, entertaining a self-confident liberal population. It would mean repudiating any position attained by fulfilling the needs of media and credentialing institutions. (Some of us are already there and have been for some time.) Unlike today’s, that avant-garde would have, as De Kooning put it in 1950, “no position in the world except that we just insist on being around.”

* I should add that the bastion-institutions on which professional artists rely will still have considerable largess to dispense. They will probably picture themselves in the anti-Trump camp (“culture vs. the state”) and  reinforce funding of their usual recipients. This will demonstrate that “freedom of expression is still alive.” For that the institutions will get the credit for their symbolic act, and the artists for playing their role. However, these institutions have already been hard at work in the job of curating–censoring–whatever is not to their advantage.

Those who say “I love art” will know it includes everything framed as art, and even unframed, like children’s scribblings, which they might elevate by saying “Now that’s a real work of art.” But the commonly expressed “I love all music” does not include everything so framed; the love of music is not expansive but protective against what is outside. Music is more meaningful than the other arts, not just to people’s lives but to their hearts. It is not a decoration or a signal to others that one is a liberal, magnanimous, trustworthy person. In fact there is distrust for those who love music that falls outside the bounds of “all music.”

This is not distaste, a private judgment of tasting a dish and preferring others, something a friend might easily like. Rather, what is music but not within “all music” is a poison not to be ingested by any human. It is dangerous and requires a warning label, something that should be banned: noise pollution. Those who do include it within “all music” are somewhat alien, incomprehensible as human beings, in the world but not of it. They and those who create such music tend to create a shell around themselves, so as to ignore what the world thinks of them and what they are willing to take into their bodies, which reaches their hearts. While the world seeks to protect itself from noise, these alien beings protect themselves from the world.

For those who pride themselves on being tolerant, however, nothing can be banned, at least nothing framed as music. Urban liberal meets neoliberal: be generous, give everything a chance, as I do. These are the hypocrites. They will say that anything framed as music is a matter of taste, even what evokes in some a gut reaction to avoid as harmful to their psyche. Liberals don’t acknowledge gut reactions, it’s “I just don’t have the taste for that.” This enables them to have their cake and still toss it in the garbage without tasting it.

This situation poses a problem for musicians of such truly “outside” music who want to grow an audience for it. To seduce people to swallow it the pill must be sugar-coated, made palatable. Hopefully they will act as if it is merely a matter of taste, a new dish served in a decent restaurant–hey, check this out. So the frame must be gilded, and there are many strategies for doing so. Imply that it is art, sanctioned by those who know authentic art, and prospective audience would be marked as philistines for rejecting it. Show institutional credentials, or indicate that it is popular among a significant number of audience. Say it is an extension of jazz, and it’s almost racist to deny that jazz is America’s music, only good can come from it. Another strategy is to say it is somehow radical, part of the counterculture, an alternative that is neither high art or commercial music. Unwittingly these promotional strategies influence the music itself, such that music called “edgy” has no edge at all, and slips easily down the gullet. A performance will be “delightful” and “compelling.”

A strategy proven to be ineffective is to say, just listen to this and clear your mind of judgment. Let down your guard, it’s only sound, how can it hurt you? This music has been created for you and not for the anxious mind.

The following is written hastily in a couple hours but what the fuck. Instead of “the artist” retreating at the sight of the hobgoblin of politics we plunge right into it, the magnificent obsession.

To allow the election of those who might possibly represent the will of ordinary people is the riskiest step power ever made. This was forced on it, beginning with the French and American Revolutions, and has been the source of the greatest anxiety power has ever endured. Threatened with collapse was the concept of the King’s Two Bodies, one that was the actual mortal person of the king and the other that of “true” power, eternal and descended from on high. Henceforth worshiped power was to be subject to a quantity of thumbs-downs of those who were not swayed by the iconic statue in which power had wrapped itself. No one could guess where the bold move would lead, but it threatened to dis-empower those in power in an eye’s twinkling. Every election was a potential revolution annulling the powers that be. Through experience and struggle they would have to learn the psychology of manipulation and control over events that was never before needed. Power would have to face anyone whose x-ray vision could see that it was mortal, and naked as the day it was born.

The spectacle was not born in the 1920s, when consumerism saved capitalism from overproduction (Fordism), but a century earlier, perhaps most visible in political cartoons that vilified political opponents and aroused fear among people who had little to fear. It was Jackson who mastered this, portraying the Indian as the aggressor who must be stopped, with of course himself as the one most capable of doing so. The embarrassment for power was that it was supposed to be enlightened.

The Enlightenment had challenged power rhetorically, for it consisted of intellectuals with the naïve notion that the rulers were reasonable people like themselves; a positive future could be achieved through criticism and persuasion. The populace, otherwise known as the mob, was more effective, combining force and self-belief (today’s “empowerment”). The enlightened mostly went along, though with reservations, and eventually became the articulate persuaders and rationalizers of the various sides. Democracy was not their idea but, for the sake of power or at least influence, what they accommodated to. Naïve to this day, or rather simply needing to be gratified by a taste of power themselves, they mostly serve the spectacle as the loyal opposition, aka the left.

In America of the early 19th century, the guiding star of this awkward marriage of Enlightened Democracy, the only way to reconcile it with the conquest of a populated continent was to present genocide as merely self-defense. (“A man’s home is his castle,” was the slogan of a segregationist I saw pamphleting a Baltimore bus in 1965). To maintain their self-esteem as both rational and Christian, the voting population would have to be persuaded that those who initially acted rationally and sought accommodation with the white man through mutually binding treaties had turned irrational and now wanted to conquer him and wipe him out. The image of the noble and respected savage would now appear a masquerade, a sly deception and betrayal on their part. America would not exist today were not an image of the Indian created that inverted the reality, such that politicians could appear as defending an innocent people, a rational aim, against an evil enemy bent on eradicating them. Once that enemy was thoroughly defeated militarily and humiliated, the former romantic image could be pulled out of storage.

Through imagery-manipulation, fear is thereby converted from irrational and transparent to rational and unquestionable, and with a short lapses has been the basis of American politics ever since. With this turn American politics as we understand it today was created through the agency of what would later be called the society of the spectacle.

The Civil War could not have taken place if the issue were slavery but rather the fear that the slave economy was an alien being threatening the “free” economy of nascent capitalism and was expanding westward. Slavery was vilified, which motivated the enlighteners in the North and silenced any doubts they might have had concerning the union of democracy and capitalism. But the more effective argument was the threat of rebellion, to which power must respond. No more than the Bourbon kings could step away from the throne could Lincoln yield to the rebels.When liberals say “good thing” to that they forget to add, “power is good in the right hands,” which makes it all more complicated.

The rebels did not perceive themselves fighting for slavery—few of the soldiers themselves were slaveholders—but rather saw themselves as underdogs fighting for their independence, exactly the kind of fight that allied them with the founders of the Republic. The confusion continues today, for the liberal North, which believes it holds a monopoly on enlightenment, cannot conceive that Southern conservatism has a streak of rebellious resistance to power. After all, the postmodern offshoot of liberalism is “transgression,” which should envy those who “stand up for themselves.” In the view of liberalism, power is positive when in the hands of the enlightened, who by definition are the ones not hoodwinked. It has yet to come to grips with the fact that the revolution that gave them a function in the world of power was first and foremost a rebellion against power.

The history of America and its politics is the series of threats to the presumed unity of enlightenment, democracy, and political economy, otherwise known as capitalism. When it was a matter of saving capitalism from the (democratic) mass of people, the spectacle saved the day with its image of anarchy. When capitalism was threatened by its own success, overproduction, the image of unending progress of human happiness based on consumption was promoted, and power recovered its enlightened, people-friendly image. Even the condescending progressives came around. The unwashed immigrants who had been the threat were now reimagined as consumers, with capitalism their savior. When the Depression gave the lie to that story, reversion to the earlier picture became a threat, but successful politics, now with no goods to buy off the populace, instead sold the image of the heroic masses struggling alongside power to rebuild not capitalism but democracy. This was positive and visionary: the only fear is fear itself, and freedom was from want, that is, consumption, so long as capitalism was the only means of satisfying need.

During the thirties American politics would be isolationist, aloof and protected against contagion from Europe. For the moment it could ignore the need of capitalism to conquer the world if it was to continue to expand beyond a saturated home market. Americans would not have been persuaded to join the fight of European powers in World War II if they had thought it was a fight for the expansion of capital; even the corporate elite didn’t argue that. No, people only agreed to fight for enlightened democracy, a continuation of the solidarity of the good against evil than enabled them to overlook what a clearer vision would see as evils in their very backyard.

To vote the lesser of two evils was once the cynic’s view and in the minority. Now that has become the only positive. It is the only politics possible, and both sides agree. (For reasons left obscure here, American politics, unlike European, has always depended on gravitation towards one of two sides). Eisenhower was the war hero president, our DeGaulle. As a soldier he was not impressed by fear and could make no use of it when faced with it politically with McCarthy, nor could he counter it. It was Kennedy who successfully utilized a politics of fear, when he raised the specter of a “missile gap,” the one weapon available to a non-incumbent that allowed him to squeak past Nixon (very possibly a stolen election). It was a lie and he knew it, but in the game of electoral politics it had become effective to speak to fear. Since McCarthy people had learned that television was the vehicle of politics; the spectacle was what mattered.

What glued people to the screen during the hearings (myself included) was fear, but a new version, for the medium was in fact the message. The spectacle then and what we know today turns fear into intimidation. We are mesmerized (hypnotized) by an image that pretends to be reality far more effectively than what is right in front of us or a political cartoon. To be critical of the screen requires another screen image, thus pulling everything into its vortex. The spectacle, born in fear, converted to the utopia of consumer goods and enlightened democracy, reverted back to its origins and now more powerful than ever. It was not ironic that the spectacle had been the weapon of the right, it was rather what all politics would have to master. However, what they thought they could master ended up mastering them, as McLuhan learned too late. Better appeal via fear of communism than leftist goals of expanding democracy to include blacks, the “American Dilemma” that both American and Russian Communists pointed to as the thorn in the side of rosy American idealism.

This segment of the society of the spectacle, which begins in McCarthyism, continues until it is the only show in town. It is the spectacle that has declared there is no history, no future other than disaster, with everyone powerless against it. Politics no longer presents society with specific positive options but rather unites people in opposition to “the other.” Liberalism speaks of support for the maligned other but the effective other is that of its political opponent, which is why today it is so gleeful. The positive is only the gathering of those who fear loss, like those voting for Jackson “against” the Indians (not “for” taking their land) and those voting “against” Trump (who is”for” Hillary?).

Obama had no program other than to reverse Bush, to win back lost ground, as if there were a positive future. His electorate was blindsided by his intelligence and his program of negating what had come before. His blackness silenced criticism (and he knew it), since for decades p.c. leftism had convinced people that any criticism of blacks was racist, the key test for enlightenment. Trump throws people a variety of options, even reverses himself on them, but, as the spectacle becomes the only memory, once a declaration has made its impact it cannot be taken back. What unites people behind him is to negate the enemy they feel threatens them, just as Obama had done more innocently in his pledge to roll back the Bush policies (innocent because he surely believed he could do good in office once he was successful).

Trump has done what no one else could, unite the left behind a candidate who has no program other than to achieve final victory over the right, in whose spoils the left hopes to share. This is what the left today, and its history of struggle and vision, is reduced to–a long conversion that I’m barely recounting here. Yet like Obama, if HRC does achieve that  it would be apparent that she has no interest other than that struggle, none of her early idealism. That hollowness would convert strength into weakness. In terms of silencing criticism her vested interest, as Trump’s, is to keep the enemy alive, rather than to persuade it of any value she might present. There is a phantom enemy, however, that momentarily frightened her–those of the left who might become an effective opposition to her, resurrecting an enlightenment that ignores pc intimidation and recalls the positive vision of what has been called the defunct Old Left–including her own deja vu. That appeared in the unexpected candidacy of Bernie, counter-populist to Trump. The socialist, who earlier shared several planks with Trump, has since showed himself loyal to the politics of negating the other. Fear, the chief construct of the spectacle, is not a tactic of this side against the other, it is the only side.