25 April 2013

Zizek’s Post-Traumatic Speculative Fiction

Filed under: Culture, Fiction, Psychology — ktismatics @ 11:08 am

The past two days I’ve participated in a lively thread about post-traumatic subjectivity at the Attempts at Living blog. In the course of the discussion I became aware of an essay by Slavoj Zizek entitled “Descartes and the Post-Traumatic Subject.” [The Abstract and a link to the PDF of the paper  can be found here.] Having read Zizek’s essay, I’m not sure what value there is in writing a post about it. I once did a lot of PTSD counseling and might do so again in the future. Does Zizek offer practical therapeutic advice? No. Does he reframe post-trauma in a way that has psychoanalytic value? That question might be worth considering, although I regard Zizek’s frame as a constraint to break rather than a context to step into. Does he reposition post-trauma politically? He does, and that’s what I find most objectionable about the essay. Is Zizek claiming that what he writes is true? If so, I don’t see any evidence supporting his truth claims. Alternatively, is Zizek telling a story, writing a kind of fiction, an alternative reality in which characters can act and events can be staged? Previously I’ve concluded that I get the most personal value out of metaphysical speculation if I regard it as a fictional genre. Do I find value in Zizek’s speculative “short story” about the post-traumatic subject? I do. In fact, I think I can adapt it for a chapter in my own fiction that I expect to write next week. So I’ll write this post about Zizek not as a critique but as a kind of summary description of a fictional world, an oppressive apocalyptic vision.

In some realities, what the subject fears is the inability to attain desires. In that sort of reality, trauma is the definitive obstacle to the fulfillment of desire. Trauma maims or kills you so that you cannot pursue your desire. Trauma removes that which you desire from the field of possibility, making further pursuit pointless — learned helplessness. The post-traumatic subject becomes passive, psychically numb, alienated, zombified, reduced to brain and body without a heart and soul. Trauma permanently severs the link between desire and fulfillment. Post-trauma, desire dies because it cannot possibly be fulfilled.

But that’s not how Zizek’s alternate reality works. Zizek begins his story by rehearsing (his version of) the Freudian-Lacanian fiction about trauma: that the victim actually wants to be traumatized.

For Freud (and Lacan), every external trauma is “sublated,” internalized, owing its impact to the way a pre-existing Real of the “psychic reality” is aroused through it. Even the most violent intrusions of the external real — say, the shocking effect on the victims of bomb-explosions of war — owe their traumatic effect to the resonance they find in perverse masochism, the death-drive, in unconscious guilt-feeling, etc.

In ZizekWorld, what one fears is what one desires. And what one desires is to be hurt, to be victimized by the sadist, to be punished, to be dead. I desire what I fear: some might regard this construction as a delusional phantasm, a subjective fiction. Trauma, when it comes, could be regarded as the irruption of the Real, destroying the fantasy, clearing the way for the individual who was previously immersed in a fictional delusion to get a little more real, to start becoming a real subject. But that’s not Zizek’s story. In ZizekWorld, not only does the subjectively Real incorporate the phantasm of imagined trauma: the image of the trauma is central to the subject’s reality.

Why? In Zizek’s fictional universe, as in many other parallel universes, the human subject is activated by desire. But here’s the twist in ZizekWorld: if the subject’s desire is ever fulfilled, then the subject loses the prime motivation to do anything. The object that someone desires is never really the cause of desire; if the object is attained, then desire must shift to some other object, some other potential source of fulfillment that must be pursued. At some unconscious level the person occupying Zizek’s fictional world understands this to be the case: if ever my desire is truly fulfilled, then I have nothing left to motivate me, no emotional engagement in the world.

In ZizekWorld, then, it’s not the permanent impossibility of fulfillment that kills desire. What kills desire is the fulfillment of desire. And so in effect the subject desires that which would kill desire, which would in effect kill the subject. The subjects in ZizekWorld are animated not by libido versus death drive, but by libido intertwined with death drive. And it is trauma that, catastrophically, fulfills the subject’s desire. In trauma, the phantasmatic image of desire held at a distance by the subject suddenly and uncontrollably closes the gap — between subject and object, between desire and fulfillment, between libido and death. Trauma destroys the object of desire because the object was always just a stand-in for death. And now death has come upon the subject, killing the object of desire. And trauma kills the subject of desire too, because the subject is intrinsically organized around desire.

But in ZizekWorld, killing the subject of desire doesn’t kill the subject altogether.

All different forms of traumatic encounters, independently of their specific nature (social, natural, biological, symbolic…), lead to the same result — a new subject emerges which survives its own death, the death (erasure) of its symbolic identity: after the shock, literally, a new subject emerges. Its features are well-known from numerous descriptions: lack of emotional engagement, profound indifference and detachment — it is a subject who is no longer “in-the-world” in the Heideggerian sense of engaged embodied existence. This subject lives death as a new form of life — his life is death-drive embodied, a life deprived of erotic engagement; and this holds for henchmen no less than for his victims.

The resurrected undead zombie subject is born again, its desire fulfilled. Should we feel sorry for the post-traumatic subject, and angry at the perpetrator of the trauma? Not in ZizekWorld.

What if we surmise that the cold indifferent disengaged subjects are NOT suffering at all, that, once their old persona is erased, they enter a blessed state of indifference, that they only appear to us caught in unbearable suffering?

The post-traumatic subject feels no pain because pain, like all feeling, is a product of a subjectivity fueled by desire, and the desiring-subject is dead. What then do trauma and its consequences mean in ZizekWorld? They mean nothing, since meaning is another product of the desiring-subject, a story that the subject tells itself about what it desires and why, how it goes about pursing its desires, why it is thwarted, etc.

In ZizekWorld the post-traumatic subject lives on, without desire, continually repeating the same meaningless sequences of actions again and again, the death drive decoupled from libidinal investment. And who are these “degree zero” subjects, these shells without substance, these “autistic monsters” that populate ZizekWorld? They are the “new proletariat”:

the exploited worker whose product is taken away from him, so that he is reduced to subjectivity without substance, to the void of pure subjective potentiality whose actualization in work process equals its de-realization.

Presumably in ZizekWorld the new proletarian masochistically wants to be exploited, feels he deserves it as punishment for his guilt, wants to be reduced to performing repetitive meaningless tasks. Who else are the post-traumatic subjects occupying ZizekWorld? Those cold-blooded killers, terrorists, and suicide bombers, those mindless followers of orders dictated by their authoritarian leaders, the Muslims:

When one looks an autistic subject (or a “Muslim”) into the eye, one also has the feeling that “there is nobody home.”

I could go on to discuss Zizek’s negate-the-negation shtick, whereby trauma ironically doubles the original primal trauma of symbolic castration from the Mother by the Father, a trauma that creates the subject in the first place. But this is enough I think: I’ve got my own fiction to write. We can certainly envision a Leader in ZizekWorld who organizes the zombified new proletariat in order to accomplish a violent revolution. Even if they’re killed or maimed in the battle it doesn’t mean anything, because they’re already dead, beyond meaning, beyond suffering. Or the ruling class can simply continue to exploit their undead workers, who don’t feel it anymore, who don’t care about anything anymore. Or the Muslims can be bombed into oblivion, since they’re already undead zombies. I can use these fantastic totalitarian speculations of Zizek’s for my own sinister fictional insurgencies…



  1. I’ve been thinking about Zizek in relation to Socrates. The latter was regarded as a pest and mocked by the populace but he had some powerful and well placed friends. Critias turned out bad and brought tyranny to Athens for a spell and though there was an amnesty Socrates’s connections went against him in the trial. Suppose one of Zizek’s followers perpetrated some outrage, striking a blow for the end times, then his buffoon status might be reviewed. He would now be the Lacanian Imam whose influence was behind it, the instigator. What was that line – ‘Look after him, see that harm befalls him’. Is he another R.D.Laing, a prophet for a while and then a footnote?

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 April 2013 @ 12:30 pm

  2. Some years ago I read two Zizek books very quickly and was astounded by his wide-ranging erudition and playful creativity. Maybe I have learned some critical philosophical thinking in the blogworld, since now when I read something by Z I go more slowly, more critically, wading through the asides and pop-cultural references to the position he’s putting forward. As with Laing, there is always a kind of anti-whatever to Z’s positions, a reversal of the expected that is then, voila, reversed again! I didn’t read his recent essay on why the Left needs its own Margaret Thatcher, but having read his piece on the post-traumatic subject I can see how he’d advocate a Master who would disregard the rights and freedoms and equality of the undead prole followers in order to achieve by fiat and force some top-down agenda. There are those on the blogging left who regard Z as a fascist posing as a communist: pieces like this one on the post-traumatic support that skeptical view of his public image.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2013 @ 1:05 pm

  3. Gilles Deleuze introduced the concept of the “sheet of time”— a traumatic point in time, a kind of magnetic attractor which tears moments of past, present, and future out of their proper context, combining them into a complex field of multiple, discrete, and interacting temporalities.

    Yea, for Zizek the death-drive in the Lacanian sense far from being the same as the nirvana principle (the striving towards the dissolution of all tension, the longing for a return to original nothingness), the death drive is the tension which persists and insists beyond and against the nirvana principle. For him the death-drive is the intensive striving antagonism within life that moves us, keeps us going, desiring…. (ie., you have to take his reading in the Lacanianian sense, not the typical Freudian sense of the death-drive). So for him the frustrating nature of our human existence, the very fact that our lives are forever out of joint, marked by a traumatic imbalance, is what propels us towards permanent creativity. He agrees with Kierkegaard it is easy to accept that we are just a speck of dust in the infinite universe; what is much more difficult to accept is that we effectively are immortal free beings who, as such, cannot escape the terrible responsibility of our freedom.

    He remarks in Less than Nothing:

    “Is this not how trauma works? On the one hand, trauma is the X that the subject is unable to approach directly, that can only be perceived in a distorted way, through some kind of protective lens, that can only be alluded to in a roundabout way, never confronted head on, etc. On the other hand, however, for a subject who has experienced a traumatic shock, the trauma also functions as the very opposite of the inaccessible Thing-in-itself which eludes its grasp: it functions as something here, in me, that distorts and disturbs my perspective on reality, twisting it in a particular way.”

    As for the post-traumatic subject he tells us:

    “Is what happens in the case of a post-traumatic subject not the destruction of the objet a? This is why such a subject is deprived of engaged existence and reduced to “vegetative” state of indifference. What we should nonetheless bear in mind is that this destruction results also in the loss of reality itself, which is sustained by the objet a— when the subject is deprived of the excess, it at once loses that with regard to which the excess is an excess. This is why the “living dead” of the concentration camps, were simultaneously reduced to “bare life” and stood for the pure excess (the empty form) which remains when all the content of human life is taken away from the subject.”

    Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 12198-12202). Norton. Kindle Edition.

    Comment by noir-realism — 25 April 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  4. Yes I read that avatar of Thatcher piece. He likes paradox and the Socratic anti-democratic note that I’ve mentioned is there too. What we really need is a philosopher-king whose name has diacretic marks and so on and so on. I’m bogged down in End Times at the moment and I’ve laid it aside and it is slowly being covered by later accretions. I think he is best as a speaker where he is focused on a single issue and he can be quite amusing. There’s a youtube video of him watering the tulips which he refers to as a bourgeois flower ‘but I like them’ .

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 April 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    • I haven’t kept up with Zizek’s prodigious output. His strange twitches and sniffs, while grotesque, are oddly compelling. Where I remain noncommittal is whether he intends the reader to accept his paradoxical positions on issues, or if he regards paradox itself as the intervention, as something like the conceptual Freudian slip or gap where the Real can emerge. That’s my recollection of Parallax View: it’s not so much the convergence of perspectives but rather the space between the divergent POVs that he wants to explore. Others regard that maneuver as a feint, that he’s hiding his true position in plain view behind all the obfuscations and distractions. I might have to read another full-length book to see what I think now.

      Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2013 @ 9:27 pm

  5. Hi Noir. I see from your posts that you’re enthusiastic about Zizek. From your comment here I’d say that we’re both understanding Zizek similarly with respect to the trauma, and that Z picks up in Less Than Nothing where he left off in this 2008 essay. In fact, the second of the two paragraphs from the book that you pasted into your comment is identical to a passage in the essay. The first paragraph conveys in different words some of the same ideas, most notably that trauma is a function less of the external event precipitating it than of the psychological response of the traumatized. Surely that’s wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the subject approaches the bomb or the earthquake indirectly; the bomb/earthquake directly approaches the subject. And I’d say that the bomb functions as something in me, but it doesn’t just twist my perspective: it twists my body. Z is explicit about his intentions: trauma isn’t the objective event that befalls one; it’s the psychological response to the event. And the trauma is a function of the subject’s masochism and guilt; i.e., that the subject both deserves and wants his own subjective destitution. This is pretty much asserting that the perpetrator of the event, be it nature or the bomb-dropper, the torturer or the exploiter of labor, is not the cause of the trauma experienced by the victim. The victim desired it; the victim is now beyond pain; it’s meaningless.

    “For him the death-drive is the intensive striving antagonism within life that moves us, keeps us going, desiring….”

    Not quite, at least in this essay. The death drive keeps us going, but it doesn’t keep us desiring. Z cites Deleuze in Difference and Repetition to clarify:

    Eros and Thanatos differ in that Eros has to be repeated, can be experienced only in repetition, while Thanatos (as the transcendent principle) is what gives repetition to Eros, what submits Eros to repetition.

    Z contends that, for the post-traumatic subject, Eros dies, yet Thanatos persists:

    the disengaged indifferent de-libidinalized subject effectively is the pure subject of death drive: in it, only the empty frame of death drive as the formal-transcendental condition of libidinal investments survives, deprived of all its content.

    For the post-traumatic subject the objet a is destroyed because of “the over-proximity of the object.” Desire is fulfilled, and so there is no more libidinal investment within the subject. There is no more disconcerting push-pull imbalance of jouissance, no more creative tension. However, the post-traumatic subject continues its driven repetitiveness, like a zombie. What does the post-traumatic undead subject repeat? The pursuit of someone else’s desire: the boss, the religious leader, the political leader, the army general. They are the new proletariat, ready to work or to fight without resistance or suffering, with no need to find meaning in their mindless repetitions. So says Z.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2013 @ 4:03 pm

    • Oh, I think you misunderstood… I was actually in agreement with you summation. I should have been explicit. I was just adding my statements as an addendum, or grist for the mill… :) I think you actually hit the nail on the head in your previous essay! And, you’re right… he seems to reduce everything to his Lacanian system of lack… that’s both the glory and downfall of his return to German Idealism. Yea, I’m a fan, but can’t say I agree with most of what he says … haaha! He’s a great read, but contradicts himself all the time… I think truly he writes for himself rather than for others. I mean his internal monologue is more like Hamlet at the grave….

      Comment by noir-realism — 25 April 2013 @ 7:32 pm

  6. I can see Bakker’s neuropath being the leader of a host of Zizekian proles whom he’s previously traumatized and reduced to death-drive slaves to execute his nefarious schemes. Regarding your observations on your blog, there’s the question of what distinguishes the person who achieves strength and resolve through repeated oppression vis-a-vis someone who sags into post-traumatic apathy and helplessness. In my fictional project I’m trying to sketch out some other variant of the post-traumatic subject who achieves a kind of intensified subjectivity, and intersubjectivity, by passing through the zombie phase into something else. I’m not quite sure where that takes these characters, but that’s part of the enjoyment of writing it: to see what happens next.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2013 @ 9:18 pm

  7. I was surprised to see this post, probably because I don’t read the bleugers who still talk about him all the time, and realize that I haven’t really given him a thought for years. One thing I definitely can conclude about him, albeit just by chance of not paying attention, is that he is no Master, and is sort of a half-charismatic. Which doesn’t mean useless: I found all the threads–I read most of what is linked here, including the Zizek on Thatcher, but wouldn’t watch any clips, I think I hate TV even on the net by now. and just don’t care what I missed…how can you care what you ‘missed’ if there was enough already?

    I mean, yes, you can use some of this for fiction, or really anything else, use it for temporary movements out of undeadness, out of ‘not-desiring’, an interesting new thought for me since I can’t achieve it when circumstances described here would require it. It’s a natural for fiction and anything else you can exploit it for, since there are tons of fantastically useful ideas, if you really keep the emphasis on ‘speculation’. I liked Zizek’s things because I don’t take them literally as I did years ago when I took him seriously (or thought I should; I probably never did after his idiotic contribution to the Verso series on 9/11, along with Virilio and and Baudrillard, both of whose were better. Virilio only good by comparing one piece of one thing to another (the 1993 bombing and 9/11, the Pentagon vs., WTC, etc.), Baudrillard funny and wise as usual while not giving a shit what anybody thinks, so accidentally hits on things.)

    All these discussions are meritorious for me, at least, including Zizek’s assertions, if you just think of them as an especially rich grab-bag of treasures and techniques or potentital techniques. I must pick up something, because I never think about Zizek anymore (I think the last time I did was when he and Naomi Klein went down to OWS at around the same time, and she didn’t have any anti-
    Zizek time to waste during her tenure there, or whatever… I don’t care that much what she does either.) He’s right about Thatcher, though. Not so much the ‘left-wing Thatcher NEEDED’ shingle, but he had to make it a Zizek article. Anybody knows what Thatcher had as talent, whether or not someone wants to whine about it (I noticed the photo on that site was of a paticularly attractive shot of her, and she did indeed ‘Hollywoodize’ to the point of ‘Windsorize’ her looks as she got more and more powerful, esp. after the reversal after the Falklands). But the PTSD and the ‘death-driven prole’ and the ‘bailed-out Randians’ is all quite available–and not just to the Randians. Someone on one of the threads said something about ‘integrity’ of someone throughout all of this, that or the other, and going crazy in between, but it’s never clear what integrity is. That’s pretty relative too. People all join en masse about some things, and don’t show any integrity to speak of. The homeless were brought, by John, I think, and that’s a good description of how they have to operate (DeLillo has good formulations on that in ‘Mao II’ as well, how time and place get re-structured, paradoxically, the space of the super-rich mansion(s) owner gets less thought-time from their owners than the cardboards and minimal half-functional possessions of the homeless person, cast out into this divided-off situation).

    I wouldn’t be one of you to have anything scholarly to offer on this, why Deleuze might have something that Badiou and Zizek don’t like, or try to prove it (or not.) I don’t exactly know why Zizek said there was ‘only one Thatcherite’, Mrs. T. herself, except as a kind of fanboy tribute. She wasn’t that great, even if she impresses–and not just with her parvenu vulgarity, as touching the hands of her male-wimp Cabinet people, her ‘dears’, or carefully timing her woman-of-the-world decadent laugh when someone whispers ‘The monarch has just passed gas.’ She was a kind of clown when she really started imitating the royals toward the end of the reign, and started bossing John Major around. And that hilarious husband, who was equally vulgar.

    But she’s only one of the points. The whole thread here and the other posts and the articles and comments are a rich source, a kind of ‘how-to’ manual. To read all (or almost all) of them in about an hour is a way of lightening some of those very conditions, of learning how to keep concentration on those things that might constitute trauma (but less so if they aren’t barricaded away, as, for example, now that I don’t take Zizek seriously as some really big world figure, and I’ve always thought he was not, he’s too clumsy, I got a lot more benefit out of even what he himself said than I did when I thought he was of some real importance: And in that, he’s very different from Old Lady Thatcher, who really was important even if loathsome; he’s loathsome, but small-time, and maybe none too soon for that reason alone for me to stop reading either the leftist bleugers and the Moldbuggian shriekers alike. Who cares if Zizek is proved a Fascist on a bleug or not? It’s impossible, to begin with. And he’s more mush-minded in an erudite way than anything else)

    All the entries on PTSD are very interesting, but they too, are probably about the norm. obviously, not all those who have suffered even the most physically frightful and devastating and destructive blows react the same way. Those who have been in the heat of battle don’t all come home shell-shocked. Some, like my brother-in-law, don’t even need anti-depressants. And that depression thing keeps coming in. Lots of depressed people don’t respond to those drugs, I tried two of them, and threw them out in a few days, their properties were so obviously detrimental, and the problems were a matter of taking action I didn’t want to have to take. I hadn’t been in a situation where doing something properly was thoroughly hateful and unsatisfying, but not doing so would have been profitless and even worse; but I got used to it. It works for some people and some situations, and this has nothing to do with brain chemistry, or rather, something else is needed besides Welbutrin, for god’s sake, which practically causes seizures. In other words, although this is obvious to most, I imagine, but they may deal with it in more gradual, incremental stages than I’ve sometimes had to, just because of tendency to extremes that don’t quite fall of the precipice, concentration on some kinds of pain most of the time when in difficult periods, is what you should do, not be ‘cheered up’. That way, it may finally recede, and you don’t stay ‘undead’ or ‘zombified’, but I wouldn’t say that those states are not sometimes very normal. That this thread and the related ones and comments and articles are so stimulating (a word Old Lady T. liked) was very surprising.

    But I think John’s saying he can use it to see what happens to ‘these characters’ is very similar to what I use this kind of series of discussions and posts for. He’s more of a ‘real fiction writer’ than I am, as I’ve discovered over the course of the last year and more recently still more. I’m more of a performance artist than writer, simply because I don’t take my writing more seriously than other activities even if I have a few works that are recognized by a few smart people (and no more than that, I admit, but I also can understand why they wouldn’t be. I was interested in ‘noir-realism’ saying that he thinks Zizek ‘writes for himself more than for others’. That could be true of a lot of us, maybe of John and myself as well, but the main thing I picked up about Zizek in this flurry here is that he’s ordinary. For some reason, it makes him easier to listen to, because you know from past experience that he’s always ephimeral. His prescriptions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts were, I think, also in that slim Verso book, and who’d pay attention to any of those now? He was, for me, only destructive, in his early 00’s attempts to proclaim that the ‘virtual’ had already begun to dominate ‘all the rest’ a lot more than it has. It calmed down, and even some of the maniacs have had to realize they had, for example, ‘families’ that were really in the same house that might well be more important than hitting the Kurzweilian Singularity by the deadline K. had imposed (look it up, I don’t do publicity for that Bill Maher clone…). This is probably itself a real progress, even in the most extreme rightists, since the 5000-year-living Singularity body for oneself seems to have cooled off, and the idea of ‘backing up everything digitally’ is just sci-fi fantasy. People are not spending their time really doing it anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the RPG’s that addicted some till they had no bank accounts left, had not begun to inspire more caution as to their side-effects. But then I’m not going to look it up. I looked up enough things this morning that depressed me somewhat (because I didn’t know enough to have spoken about some of it recently, and now I know I didn’t), until I found this, which I wasn’t even planning to read the OP of.

    But one thing is pretty clear to me: If Ivana Trump was the first ‘professional famous person’ I heard called that, I think Zizek is the ‘important unimportant person’, who is worth picking the brain of, all with a grain of salt. His own writings attest to a kind of ‘prole-repetitiveness’. How could he not have written a perverted Thatcher piece? It’s like Hillary doesn’t know how to ‘not keep constantly working’. He really is totally predictable. No surprises at all. But there may be those he makes predictions for that will bring the real surprises.

    Comment by Patrick Mullins — 26 April 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  8. I was surprised at this post too, Patrick. As you know, I don’t ordinarily go in for discussing these cultural theorists, except when I complain about their lack of empirical support. I don’t even get particularly involved in personality critiques of the theory bloggers. I believe I first encountered Arranjames as a commenter on Noir Realism, whose blog I’ve visited from time to time over the years and whom I most recently encountered in discussions of neuroscience on Three Pound Brain. These guys know a lot more about the theorists than I do, and they’re friendly as well as sharp, so reading/commenting there keeps me up to speed at least a little bit.

    Here we’ve had far more discussions of Lacanian analysis than of Zizek, which helps me understand better now where Z is coming from. Writing this post took longer than I expected, and it seemed to drain some of the desire right out of me, so I didn’t get much other writing done afterward. Today though I’m back up to speed. I haven’t quite figured out how to use Z’s post-traumatic subject, but I can see the space opening up where it might fit. Writers working a different vein could no doubt build a whole epic out of the ruthless Master and his delibidinized drones taking over the world, with the underground resistance making a gallant last stand for the remnant of oppressed but still-libidinized humans. Me, I’m more inclined to devote a short chapter or two to that possible apocalyptic scenario. I’ll probably reference the Singularity while I’m at it. But at this late point in the book the whole narrative structure of the story is unraveling, going through its own apocalypse, so these futures will be presented in a pretty artificial and superficial way, as events that might be happening or might just be imagined speculations. Again, I’ll have to wait and see what unfolds.

    I’ve not read Mao II — maybe I should give it a go. From Wikipedia:

    “A reclusive novelist named Bill Gray works endlessly on a novel he chooses not to finish. He has chosen a lifestyle completely secluded from life to try to keep writing pure. He, along with his assistant Scott, believe that something is lost once a mass audience reads the work.”

    Right up my alley! Plus post-traumatic terrorists and homeless people and the Unification Church! I’m definitely getting it now, will request from the library immediately.

    Comment by ktismatics — 26 April 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    • I just picked up Mao II from the library. First sentence: “Here they come, marching into American sunlight.” Awhile back I listened to the beginning of an internet audio in which Jonathan Franzen was interviewing DeLillo. Franzen asked DeLillo how he starts writing his novels, where the ideas come from. I’m a writer of sentences, DeLillo replies; I start with the sentences, with the language. Uh huh, says Franzen: so you start with the characters, then what? Franzen wasn’t paying any attention; it was like he was listening not to DeLillo but to himself.

      Comment by ktismatics — 27 April 2013 @ 3:28 pm

  9. Real interesting post. I just finished reading Schopenhauer and it’s striking how influential he’s been. The Will can never be sated and must be overcome – with personal suffering being a major way of doing so. The linking of the abused proletariat with the Shopenhauerian man who defeats the Will is pretty clever I think.

    Comment by Jim — 26 April 2013 @ 5:52 pm

  10. I’ve got that 2-volume Schopenhauer on the shelf that I bought from a used bookstore in Boulder, but I’ve never read them. The relationship of Lacan’s and Zizek’s “desire” to “will” is worth exploring. Freud makes will a function of ego, something that can be deployed either to pursue the fulfillment of desire or to suppress its expression. The idea of breaking someone’s will fits this view, where strength of conscious will is challenged by the unconscious instinct of self-preservation. It certainly seems that in mundane jobs the will certainly overrides desire as the motivator to keep doing the work — maybe this is the death drive rather than the will for Lacan. In other higher-profile jobs the worker develops libidinal investment in the work itself, loving it, obsessing over it. One of the consequences of the current labor situation is that the tacit promise extended to workers who involve themselves heart and soul in their jobs has been violated, and so the worker is reduced to automaton status in resentment and lack of fulfilled desire. As I recall, will for Nietzsche is a subpersonal force, a drive that propels the self rather than a forceful conscious decision. In that regard Nietzsche fits with the eliminativist neuroscience types who regard conscious decision-making as an epiphenomenon, a self-awareness after the fact of the brain having already fired. None of these views fits well with Zizek’s contention that the breaking of desire is triggered not by its denial but by its fulfillment. I’m not at all persuaded that Zizek is right here.

    Speaking of Boulder, we should get together for a beer sometime. (Jim and I met at the Occupy Boulder; he’s got a terrific economics blog.)

    Comment by ktismatics — 26 April 2013 @ 6:24 pm

    • A beer sounds like a great idea!

      Comment by Jim — 30 April 2013 @ 8:38 am

      • I’ll email and we’ll set it up.

        Comment by ktismatics — 30 April 2013 @ 8:49 am

  11. “Zizek’s contention that the breaking of desire is triggered not by its denial but by its fulfillment.”

    So glad you mentioned that little divertissement of Zizek, which I found wanting the first time, but forgot to note. It is completely ridiculous, and not even worth arguing with: The point is, you can achieve total fulfillment as you deem fulfillment to be at that particular juncture (as I recently considered myself to have done in something), and then you realize that you may as well decide that there is even greater fulfillment to be achieved even if you couldn’t imagine it before. It is like playing a musical piece, and you finally think–and you even do know–that it couldn’t be better. But, in that particular moment, it could NOT have been, you know this because you have experienced UNFULFILLMENT so many times, that you could not mistake ABSOLUTE FULFILLMENT after all those Sisyphean near-misses. But, then, you find that expansion is still possible. Why wouldn’t it be? Sometimes you might go on to something else, but perhaps you hadn’t actually polished it off quite as hotly as you thought you had. So that you hadn’t ‘denied fulfillment’, you just got bored with whatever activity, and said you’d finished with it, when you can both fulfill a thing completely and then do more with it, because not everything is entropy-bound. If something is capable of expanding, you can know total fulfillment, and then see that it can be even more and better, because expansion is not expansion until it gets started. Expansion happens after a fulfillment, unless you’re too traumatized, I guess…Anyway, expansion can’t happen before or during a fulfillment, therefore there is the fulfillment and then maybe there is an expansion. He makes it sound like you just get bored when things get too good, and decide to start shopping around again.

    Comment by Patrick Mullins — 26 April 2013 @ 7:14 pm

    • Yes this is very good. Some do get bored and go shopping when things get too good, but it’s hard to see that as the typical human condition. It’s preposterous that, as a general rule of life, fulfillment of desire should prove catastrophically traumatic and death-dealing to the subject. It also seems a distortion to contend that the repetition of desire-fulfillment should be a manifestation of death drive. Repetition supposedly constitutes a stultifying renunciation of difference and creativity and so on that are the essence of life, of libido. But your example of musical performance is predicated on repetition: only through practice is mastery attained, and only through mastery is fulfillment even possible. Certainly some pleasures do wane with too much repetition, numb indifference being the endgame. Is it death drive to keep repeating after the desire has waned and the intensity of fulfillment is diminished? Or is continuation of diminished desire/fulfillment constitute the effort to keep it alive: even if vitality decreases, it’s not dead. I don’t know.

      We’ve talked before about the sadomasochism inherent in Lacanian analysis, and I think his pleasure-pain theory of jouissance is central to the rationale. The analyst withholds fulfillment to keep the patient from getting what he desires, but also the patient desires masochistically to be thwarted, perhaps even traumatized, by the analyst.

      Comment by ktismatics — 26 April 2013 @ 10:54 pm

  12. Not quite to correct my long rant yesterday including how some of the cyber has ‘calmed down’, I saw this in Dowd’s last op-ed quoting James Gleick in his NYMagazine article about the Boston Marathon crimes: The unfolding terror, Jim wrote, “found the ecosystem of information in a strange and unstable state: Twitter on the rise, cable TV in disarray, Internet vigilantes bleeding into the F.B.I.’s staggeringly complex (and triumphant) crash program of forensic video analysis. If there ever was a dividing line between cyberspace and what we used to call ‘the real world,’ it vanished last week.” Crowd-sourcing quickly turned into witchhunting, he noted, and bits of intelligence surfaced amid “new forms of banality.”

    The italicized emphasis is mine, because, for all his brilliance, that’s not quite right, when he’s not talking so much about ‘all of real life’, but rather how new media, in hysteria-inducing situations like Boston, has superseded CNN and TV news all the time. TV was never ‘real life’ either, and even if fewer people did turn on the TV (especially there), that didn’t change the crucial events. When more did tune in to watch, say, Hurricane Katrina coverage (I didn’t), there was still cameras moving from location to location and reporter to reporter. CNN is just ‘newer old media’, which is always bound to be outrun.

    However, I may well be wrong that it’s really ‘calmed down’, because the rest of what he says is obviously true: Most are on Twitter and Facebook. But the Boston horror didn’t change that any more than anything else, even if Gleick himself needed his iPhone screen, and it ‘never occurred to him to turn on TV’.

    But even those of us who think life is more than ‘just technological progress’ don’t worry about technological improvements as such (even with their disadvantages as confusion and fakery, etc., as described.) I think maybe what’s happened with the recent crimes is the new elements in them that cause shock even after we think we’re jaded: In the case of Sandy Hook, really small children just shot and killed, and in Boston the loss of legs is possibly as terrible an image as the deaths themselves there.

    Still, if I’m not wrong about the ‘calming down’, I think I therefore underestimated the degree to which Zizek hyped it up early on. From the way he said it, which is typical of him, you’d think online shopping, various kinds of consultations via ‘online chat’, etc., was not just growing, but had actually almost made brick-and-mortar offices and stores obsolete, which it has not (but I had had to find figures to be sure, because the brick-and-mortar stores do seem less substantial and don’t stay in business nearly as long.)

    Comment by Patrick Mullins — 27 April 2013 @ 11:56 am

    • I guess (it occurs to me just now) that Zizek writes a kind of ‘yellow journalism’ crossed with a lot of sensationalism, because you can never ever be sure about any of it.

      Comment by Patrick Mullins — 27 April 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  13. If you listen to Zizek, then how do you interpret Sandy Hook? The children were traumatized because somehow they desired masochistically to be shot, felt guilty and deserved to be punished. Their desire got too close to them, killing their object of desire, which in that case happened to be themselves. And the parents too: traumatized because they desired for their children to be killed, felt guilty as parents, etc. etc. Or, worse: if the parents are angry, mournful, despairing, then their desire is still active: the murder of their child wasn’t really a trauma for them. They’re only post-traumatic if they’re emotionally vacant, and then there’s no reason to comfort or feel sorry or vengeful on their behalf because they’re beyond pain.

    Such grotesque distortions of reality to fit his idee fixe. Imagine Zizek giving a lecture to the parents in the aftermath. The same for the Boston Marathon victims: they desired to have their legs blown off, so that’s why they positioned themselves where terrorists could fulfill their desires. The Sandy Hook shooter sounds closer to Z’s theory: his desire to kill came to close to him; when he was done he was drained of all desire and became zombified. But he was already crazy before he walked into that school. I don’t know about the Boston perps: it sounds like they were ready to head for Times Square afterward to continue their rampage. But they seem to have lost their bearings too, stealing a car and shooting a cop. Had they, like the Sandy Hook killer, reached the point where they no longer had desire to survive or to kill again? It seems to me that their desires were still very active — to do more crimes, to hide, etc. Even a death wish is a desire: presumably they hadn’t reached post-trauma yet. I think that’s probably true.

    Comment by ktismatics — 27 April 2013 @ 3:41 pm

  14. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/friedman-judgment-not-included.html

    I don’t read Friedman all the time, but sometimes he’s very good. This one on the internet and the Boston terrorists is excellent. He does neglect to point out that there is a parallel between what the Boston terrorists did to the contrived invasion of Iraq: Iraq didn’t have anything to do with Al Qaeda, and Dowd’s extra info on this http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/dowd-the-silver-foxs-pink-slip.html?ref=global-home is good. The new info she tells here I hadn’t seen, and it’s indeed shocking. I don’t know how new it is, but I hadn’t heard of explicit messages through the Saudis.

    Comment by Patrick Mullins — 27 April 2013 @ 5:58 pm

    • Dowd writes: “Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld weren’t looking for the truth, and they weren’t hitting the pause button the way President Obama is with Syria right now, sensitive to the quicksand nature of the region. They simply wanted to blast some Arabs and Saddam was a weak target, just as W. was a weak president, easily led…”

      I recall that it was precisely FRIEDMAN who first articulated the ‘good sense’ of ‘blasting some Arabs’ in the earlier years of the Iraq War. He later tried to change, as he often does, and even ‘broke rules’, as it were, by telling people to vote for Kerry, without using his name. After all, you know, Friedman is a billionaire (or used to be.)

      Of course, this is trivial to some degree, but interesting that these two op-eds were twinned almost, in the same issue. Friedman’s description of the Boston psychos was much like when people would say of the Iraq War (not sure this is exact) “It’s as if we were attacked by China and decided to declare war on Mexico”. But I do remember being surprised that Friedman’s support that this show of force by ‘blasting some Arabs’ was good policy till he didn’t think the wind was any longer blowing in that direction. I’m surprised when I think he’s any good at all, and he’s never a pleasure to read.

      Comment by Patrick — 28 April 2013 @ 2:15 pm

  15. The brothers were enacting a political agenda, but so far it sounds home-cooked, maybe with some training somewhere along the way and some encouragement from Mama, not part of some coordinated scheme. Friedman writes though as if the brothers are representatives of a vast global Arab psychosis or psychopathy. I just looked at this list of terrorist attacks in the U.S. Since 9/11/2001 there have been 27 terrorist actions, of which 5 were or might have been motivated by retaliation against US policies in the Middle East. The rest were animal rights fanatics, anti-abortion extremists, and so on. That’s 5 in 11+ years — not very many, and no higher incidence than pre-9/11. All of the perps seem to have been lone wolves, without connection to terrorist organizations. During that time there have been more school bombings that Islamic terrorist acts. You have to wonder whether there’s just some tiny percentage of people who end up on some crackpot trajectory of attacking strangers, and that their stated motives are just something to make their actions sound more rational, to themselves as much as to anyone else.

    Comment by ktismatics — 28 April 2013 @ 5:30 pm

  16. In Ireland we had 30 years of various sorts of outrages and I’ve seen the terrorist mutate into a politician and end in parliament. These boys aren’t mad nor are they part of a vast conspiracy, in fact I doubt if there is such a thing otherwise there would very many of good old American drive by shootings which would be much more effective. Government has its own purposes in keeping everybody on high alert. In Ireland we called that the Securitat. It’s a massive industry. Muslim anger is not a threat to America. Now if the McVeigh element got going, watch out.

    The police reaction seemed overstated and may well call out genuine loonies to make a name for themselves before going down in a blaze of infamy. Watching the troops running round armed to the teeth I thought there might be friendly fire casualties.

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 30 April 2013 @ 10:48 am

  17. “Muslim anger is not a threat to America”? You’re not a 9/11 Truther by any chance are you, Michael? Or are you saying that al Qaeda is a political entity rather than a religious jihad? I would agree with that contention, although ultra-Islam is integral to their politics.

    The CIA used to publish an annual report on global terrorism during the prior year. It’s become a classified document since 9/11. I remember being astounded at how many terrorist events occurred, practically everywhere except the US. The last report I read was particularly complimentary of France’s efforts at preventing and thwarting attacks. No question that Ireland has been wracked over the decades. Given the amount of financial support allegedly flowing from US sources to the IRA, I can’t recall any related strikes in the US. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone over well if the UK had decided to infiltrate IRA connections in the US in order to carry out assassinations.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 April 2013 @ 3:54 pm

    • The organisation of 9/11 was I believe a one off thing as a conspiracy, with organisation according to cells with a command structure. The brothers had no back up plan. Suicide is a non-adaptive strategy and a waste of trained personnel. The Canadian plot may be genuine organised terrorism. If you can’t police 26 miles of marathon how are you going to guard railway lines. Mass transport is an obvious weak point and that there hasn’t been more attempts on it is significant.

      Comment by ombhurbhuva — 30 April 2013 @ 5:08 pm

      • “The brothers had no back up plan.”

        Neither did Timothy McVeigh, made almost no attempt to escape, meantime it was blamed on ‘Muslim rage’ for about a day. I think Timothy drove a few miles to some other hick town. Details are in that excellent book ‘American Terrorist’.

        “Suicide is a non-adaptive strategy and a waste of trained personnel.”

        I wonder why suicide bombing is done so frequently (less so recently, I’ve heard) if not by overzealous religious idiots.

        But I admit to not having the slightest idea what you’re talking about here either, and it’s not detailed are articulated enough so that one could even think you do. ‘One-off thing as a conspiracy’ by Al Qaeda? So that, by its technical execution, it was different from all the other Al Qaeda attacks which have been numerous and in many parts of the world? I can’t see why it was one-off; even Bin Laden said, in his febrile Arab way, that it went so far beyond their greatest expectations. Reminded me, in fact, of one of Dowd’s most hilarious parodies, way back in the 90s, when she was parodying Saddam, and doing some sort of Islamic poetry, even if he was on the secular side. Even Madeleine Albright wasn’t butch enough for Saddam. Maureen wrote (as Saddam): The Americans were so feminine , including the women…I thoroughly loved that.

        Comment by Patrick — 30 April 2013 @ 6:14 pm

  18. “Muslim anger is not a threat to America.”

    That’s ridiculous, and not backed up by any facts, even though those that John cites sound accurate, that there weren’t so many, or he wouldn’t have put them. You state it as if ‘Muslim anger’ exists, but then who is it directed to? Of course, Friedman is right that there is a lot of terrorism in Pakistan. Even if 9/11 hasn’t been followed by that many Islamist attacks here, or ‘angry Islamists’ (and those in Boston Friedman is also right about, despite his bullshit and his thinly-veiled love of Israel). It’s also true that Al Qaeda worked the USS Cole, the embassies in Africa before 9/11, that Islamists bombed the WTC in 1993, I forget the name of the Jersey City Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman’s crony, oh yes, Ramzi Yousef.

    Maybe you mean the well-known ‘moderate Muslim’. Of course that, and they do not support the terrorists. But Islamist terrorists, whether Al Qaeda in Pakistan or Yeman, whether it’s America of Britain or what have you, are threats. And if the ‘outrages’ you talk about in Ireland are the I.R.A.,, then of course they were threats to Britain, nevermind if Britain ‘asked for it’ by centuries of cruel oppression. They used the nail bombs too, in England, in fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of nail bombs since there was a big IRA nail-bomb attack during Thatcher’s term, but i’m sure there have been more.

    “there would very many of good old American drive by shootings which would be much more effective.”

    There have been plenty of these, although I mostly read about drive-bys in LA, rappers from Compton, etc. Why would they be ‘more effective’?

    Islamic terrorists have worked London, Bali, Spain (made them leave Iraq). It doesn’t have to be ‘America’, it’s just not all that pro-Allah.

    “Government has its own purposes in keeping everybody on high alert.”

    But it doesn’t keep us on ‘high alert’. Maybe you should read the National Intelligence Estimates, or whatever it’s called, that were being talked about when there was the sense that things were more dangerous than they now are, when even today when Obama talks about trying to close down Guantanamo, the NYTimes says that there has been a ‘decimation’ among the most threatening terrorists, since there has to be, given what they found on Bin Laden’s hard drive, when he was supposedly a ‘has-been’, ‘with little power’, etc., and this had been false. He was very active. His killing has helped a lot.

    Furthermore, that terrorist attack that was miraculously aborted in Times Square 3 or 4 years ago was meant to cause much more damage, much MUCH more than it did.

    But then, maybe you just believe the govt. lies about everything like the 9/11 truthers. Then maybe you don’t.

    I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Because Friedman, despite his omissions, which I pointed out, is right at how these disaffected brothers decided to ‘work out their anger’ on a completely unrelated populace, aside from the fact that they’re American, just like anybody else who is in Oklahoma, Texas or Airzona or Delaware.

    “These boys aren’t mad nor are they part of a vast conspiracy”

    What boys? Who isn’t mad? The Boston boys? No, they weren’t involved in anything very well-organized, it was all shoddy as hell, and they still managed a lot of damage.

    “Now if the McVeigh element got going, watch out.”

    Okay, you don’t have to respond to this comment, I just wanted to let you know how it pisses me off because I can’t see what agenda you’re trying to promote by making false statements. There are lots of problems with the secret CIA drones, but they’ve also gotten a lot of the culprits.

    Comment by Patrick — 30 April 2013 @ 4:24 pm

  19. At this point I’d expect that it would be hard to launch terrorist actions in the US that are triggered by US political and military actions in the Middle East. But the Boston bomber brothers were on the watch lists and they still got through, so the surveillance and covert infiltration isn’t foolproof. Actions like the one in Boston certainly reinforce the sense of vulnerability. But when you get the Republican Senators refusing to pass gun background checks, while the Democrats scrap tighter controls on semi-automatic weapons and ammo rounds capacity, then that vulnerability doesn’t translate well into concrete preventive action. As has been well discussed, money talks: guns and surveillance security are both big industries, so they’re both supported politically, even if they seem at cross-purposes.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 April 2013 @ 5:05 pm

  20. John, Patrick:
    I think, and perhaps I’m wrong, that I’m drawing the logical conclusions from John @15 of only 5 attacks related to the M.E. since 9/11 and that this is no more than what occurred in previous years pre-Iraq, pre-Afghanistan etc. As the rational causes of anger 100K + dead in Iraq, Abu Grahib, Gitmo, torture etc. rose the attacks did not rise also. That seems to decouple the causal train.

    But the F.B.I. were on to them and quelled them does not seem to be an adequate answer to such rarity given that they have trumpeted arrests what in some cases look like entrapment. There is also the missing of genuine information in the Boston bombing. For all the vast sums of money being spent by the Securicrats no tangible evidence of an organised multi-cellular conspiracy has emerged.

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 1 May 2013 @ 2:00 am

  21. I agree, Michael. There’s plenty of anger at US foreign policy in the Middle East, including my own, but I’m not prepared to start blowing people up as a political statement. 9/11 required plenty of planning and coordination, but garden-variety IEDs and sniper attacks could be performed practically anywhere, any time, with minimal planning and on very short notice. Almost surely an organized conspiracy could succeed at least occasionally in successfully perpetrating acts of terror in the US, so if it was an approved strategy then you’d expect to see a lot more of them taken to completion.

    So the fear of domestic terror seems far out of proportion to the empirical reality of terror. Zizek contends that people fear what they desire. In the linked article he’s explicit about terrorism: 9/11 brought to NYC and to Americans watching on television what they desired. Why? Do Americans feel guilty about their complicity in foreign policy? Do they feel guilty more generally and have a masochistic desire to be punished? Does terror, like war, constitute the ultimate in sensuality and subjective experience, something that’s only hinted at in daily life? These just don’t seem like plausible explanations to me.

    There are those who contend that this fear is orchestrated by the powers that be as a means of keeping the home fires burning against foreign threat, distracting the masses from outrages perpetrated against them by their own politicians, CEOs, and so on. Surely Bush and company used 9/11 in this way, even though they didn’t secretly hire the perps to do the deed. Even if 9/11 had never happened, and even without any plausible connection between OBL and Saddam, the Bush administration could have found, and did find, other (false) premises for invading Iraq. And I don’t doubt that fear of terrorism has been used domestically to increase “homeland security” via more police, more spying and surveillance. But I’m not sure how the Boston bombing is going to result in any more tangible political change than has the Sandy Hook incident.

    Speaking for myself, I do not go around during the day fearing terrorist attacks or psychotic shooters, maintaining constant vigilance against hidden threats. Do people who watch more TV have this fear? Not that I know of. The dramatic and visible event does call attention to itself, and media coverage intensifies the signal enormously. There is a latent desire associated with media coverage, to be the one interviewed on TV in the aftermath of the hurricane, to have one’s 15 seconds of fame. It’s presumed that terrorism is perpetrated at least in part as a means of drawing media attention. But do people desire to experience trauma for narcissistic reasons, in order to be the focus of strangers’ attention? For myself, I’d say it depends on the intensity of a trauma and how directly it hits me. I’d rather be the neighbor to the house that burns up in the fire than the person who lived in that house. Media offers vicarious experience of trauma, the intensified subjectivity and emotion without the dire consequences. The effects on the distant TV viewer are similar for real events and fictional staged events.

    Comment by ktismatics — 1 May 2013 @ 8:34 am

  22. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_transatlantic_aircraft_plot

    I don’t think that list included this. Not all the foiled attempts were trumped-up or entrapment. But there has been much greater intelligence which almost surely has slowed down or thwarted attempts, but that we can’t know, although obviously there were some bullshit arrests (I think there was some Chicago/Miami thing 5 years ago, or something like that, and there’s definitely racial profiling–not very nice, but inevitable after something like 9/11).

    But for me the whole point was not conspiracies, except for the obvious organized ones practised by Al Qaeda, it doesn’t matter whether they were carried out in the U.S. or not. Both the London 7/7 and the Spain Al Qaeda attacks had to do with countries joined with the U.S. on Iraq. I mention, in my current post on Lawrence Wright’s new book on Scientology, his extraordinary book on Al Qaeda, which I read shortly after its publication. It’s still in no way outmoded as the history of OBL and Al Qaeda through 2006, including detail on the ambition of Al Qaeda to get nuclear weapons. Maybe it’s according to whether you believe there is greater likelihood at certain times, as in New york, which was still supposed to be getting the most intelligence gathered at desired-for attacks, whether by Islamists in general or Al Qaeda. The ‘high alerts’ I noticed far more in the Bush Administation than any time recently. i haven’t heard of any for some time, I thought they even dismantled that colour-coded thing, stopped using it. Wasn’t that small attack (which may have killed nobody) a few years ago in Stockholm Al Qaeda? People stopped talking about it, it was fairly inconsequential. But anyway, there was also Jordan, some Israeli resort in Egypt (something like that) along with London and Spain. But cheering in Palestine after the 9/11 attacks was part of ‘Muslim anger’ at the U.S. So who blames them for it? I don’t. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to protect yourself from it. I don’t go around worrying about terrorists either.

    John, what you’ve said about Zizek and this masochistic desire for terror and guilt leading to it, is taking straight from the New Age programs like EST. I remember maybe 6 years ago I discussed it with Arpege, who agreed, and that this group of academic Zizekians was ‘very EST-y’, but the ‘upmarket version’ of it. Nevermind what she wanted done with Gaza, which wasn’t exactly practical in any sense, I think we talked about it at the same time. Of course, if this ‘desire for destruction’ were true, it would be equally applicable to 9/11 (except for Donald Rumsfeld, who was in the ‘safe part’ of the Pentagon, and who has never ‘told his story’, as far as I know) and New Yorkers and warmongering Pentagoners, but also the ‘100k +’ Iraqis killed, and even OBL finally getting assassinated. EST was very popular in the 70s and the whole thing was ‘you created this situation yourself’, including AIDS, getting murdered or falsely arrested, anything. All the New Age movements and ‘isms’ had this, although they seemed to go even more explicit than Scientology about this, which makes no bones about its aggressiveness and vindictiveness.

    I’m not writing terribly well this morning, but main point is that Zizek is now–at least as you interpret him– overtly aping EST and its tenets, instead of resembling them. I’ve thought there’d been a progression in his decay, which would include this ‘you brought it on yourself’ and ‘only you can heal it’ stuff from the EST period of the 70s and 80s (it became Erhart’s ‘Forum’), and its spinoffs, like ‘loving relationships training’ or whatever it was that that Sondra Ray person did. But also, this construction of a ‘left-wing Thatcher’ is so clumsy that even the Moldbuggians have a prize, because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, he probably just admires Thatcher. I often think he works to just make formulations that nobody else has used, so he can write yet another generic Zizek article on whatever new event or major thing. People like the arpegians used to always think when he double-talked about Chavez, for instance, quoting others that Chavez was ‘a clown’, that he was actually calling Chavez a clown and ‘absolutely loved Bush’. I don’t think he cares that much, he’s primarily a kind of showman, and philosophers and evangelists just never seem to be that good at that, to my mind. Tell me the name of one who has ever been as good as Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra?

    Comment by Patrick — 1 May 2013 @ 11:38 am

  23. I’d much rather be a covert operative than a victim. The cloak-and-dagger spy-versus-spy aspect of espionage and counter-espionage is always exciting. To be someone who remains undercover, plotting and executing an event of high visibility — it’s surely an attraction for both sides. I’m reading Mao II now — here’s DeLillo’s reclusive novelist “Bill” talking to the photographer:

    “There’s a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists. In the West we become famous effigies as our books lose the power to shape and influence. Do you ask your writers how they feel about this? Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.”

    Being a suicide bomber seems pointless if you can’t bask in the knowledge that you did something heinous without getting caught. There might be the fear of getting caught, humiliated, tortured, revealing secret intel that endangers the larger mission. But even the Boston brothers could have gotten away, at least for awhile, possibly even left the country before their identities were established, if they hadn’t been so stupid about it. Maybe it’s the appeal of withdrawing from public view permanently and totally, becoming mystified in your absence, like a god. DeLillo’s Bill talks about that too I believe — let me see… here’s the dialogue between Bill and Brita the photographer, starting with Bill:

    “When a writer doesn’t show his face, he becomes a local symptom of God’s famous reluctance to appear.”
    “But this is intriguing to many people.”
    “It’s also taken as an awful sort of arrogance.”
    “But we’re all drawn to the idea of remoteness. A hard-to-reach place is necessarily beautiful, I think. Beautiful and a little sacred maybe. And a person who becomes inaccessible has a grace and a wholeness the rest of us envy.”
    “The image world is corrupt, here is a man who hides his face.”
    “Yes,” she said.
    “People may be intrigued by this figure but they also resent him and mock him and want to dirty him up and watch his face distort in shock and fear when the concealed photographer leaps out of the trees. In a mosque, no images. In our world we sleep and eat the image and pray to it and wear it too. The writer who won’t show his face is encroaching on holy turf. He’s playing God’s own trick.”
    “Maybe he’s just shy, Bill.”
    Through the viewfinder she watched him smile. He looked clearer in the camera…”

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 May 2013 @ 6:33 am

  24. I don’t know anything really about EST other than that the trainers beat up the trainees a little. Is the intent to toughen you up, break you then build you back up into a fighting machine, like military basic training? Are you at some point supposed to resist the sadism, and if you do resist then you’ve passed to a higher level? I can see how the training of assassins and other covert ops people would include purging the trainees of any residual doubt or guilt, any unconscious feelings that they might deserve to be captured/killed for their dirty deeds. Although it’s probably part of the initial recruitment and screening to identify candidates who are already hardened against that sort of self-doubt. Ordinary soldiers don’t get this intense screening and prep, so when they come back from the war they’re more prone not just to survivor guilt — why did my buddy get killed and not me? — but also more ordinary soldier guilt about killing possible civilians either intentionally or as collateral damage.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 May 2013 @ 9:38 am

  25. EST is more Scientology-Lite in its tactis, although both of Werner Erhart’s enterprises have long been out of business. He was himself a Scientologist, and they accuse him of stealing their things and have harassed and threatened him. Which doesn’t mean EST people weren’t aggressive, I couldn’t stand the way it had worked on all of them I knew so effectively. No, ‘resisting the sadism’ is not what you can do in any of these things, you have to submit to it, apply it to the outside to sell the ‘enlightenment’ to other ‘ignorants’ and all these have made pots of money from it. I can’t describe it all to you here, it’s too long. I brought it up because the way you were (accurately, probably) assessing Zizek’s ‘post-traumatic subject’, or all the rest (I don’t take his terms that seriously enough to remember them even up the scroll), as for extreme example ‘the Sandy Hook kids desired to be killed’ because of their ‘guilt’ and their parents had similar ‘issues’, as they say. EST simply emphasized all this years ago, along with a lot of ‘I love you’s’ in the trainings. I read books and articles about it in the 70s and knew several victims (and they all seemed to be to me, they thought I was.) When Arpege and I were discussing it, she seemed to be the only one of these bleugpeople who weren’t even half-aware of the popularity of the 70s/80s New Age programs, Krishnamurti had been popular during them (and he was much better, even though claimed he’d been improperly brought up ‘as a Messiah’, very negative about humanity, but ‘pure’ vegetarianism and afraid of sex, very dignified, discovered by English, and was very proper and not quite interesting, but had class). The philosophy grads and undergrads acted as though they’d just ‘sophisticatedly’ passed all this by, while actually just being ignorant about it. It had a wide influence, and all during the period of ‘real philosophers’. It still does have its flourishing devotees (the most famous early one was Shirley MacLaine, who ended up sticking with her movie star friends and trying to shut up). There were al kinds of this thing. But I think the ‘you create your own reality’ and ‘you can heal yourself’ was common to most of them, including the solitary things like A Course in Miracles, which I’m not going to describe again. It seemed more sophisticated, but was actually just another body-hating program.

    I don’t know how to explain it any better, except that Scientology does not, I think, go into any of this. EST did not harass people who left it like Scientology does (very odd, that extreme chasing around of defectors), and I don’t know if Scientology even does these sessions in which they say you’re bringing about all your problems, they just try to get you to be ‘audited’ (still in the subway too here) and brainwash some of that out of you until you are fully their property; I was interested that it’s so all-pervasive, that even those who leave it still use their jargon). There may have been some who ‘resisted the sadism’ in EST, or were just turned into sadists by paying more, recruiting more EST ‘students’, just as you pay your way up to higher levels in Scientology. None of this was the point. If you want to know about these programs, you have to do some basic reading, I don’t have the information straight–I like to read about it, because it’s sensational (Scientology is, in any case), but I don’t think about it much anymore. The EST trainings wore off in a lot of cases, and they were long the butt of jokes by me, the Village Voice and some of my real friends. Noel’s version was as repellent as the next EST’ies. I never actually knew a Scientologist.

    “Being a suicide bomber seems pointless if you can’t bask in the knowledge that you did something heinous without getting caught.”

    Oh please. That’s true of all death to some degree, you don’t even get to think about death, much less your misdeeds.

    What I don’t get about either you or Michael about suicide bombing is that it really has been done a great deal, even if individually–maybe especially in Israel, probably also in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those are usually religious zealots and really believe what a charismatic leader like OBL tells them, although I think I remember they had to ‘bend the rules’ for this suicide, you’re not really supposed to do it. But your last two comments have an uneasy melange, you’ve got the inaccessible, the ‘attraction to remoteness’, with the same people calling it beautiful as who want to kill it. Isn’t DeLillo someone who doesn’t like to be photographed, no, that’s Pynchon. These aren’t very extreme cases, frankly. They’re still out in the open, just try to stay out of sight for comfort, maybe Salinger was more so, I guess so. Not that much different from Garbo, esp. DeLillo who appears from time to time.

    “I’d much rather be a covert operative than a victim. The cloak-and-dagger spy-versus-spy aspect of espionage and counter-espionage is always exciting. To be someone who remains undercover, plotting and executing an event of high visibility — it’s surely an attraction for both sides.”

    I can’t quite see where that comes from. I wouldn’t like to be a victim or ‘someone who remains undercover, plotting and executing…’ unless it was of some real benefit to myself and others, much as I think Obama sometimes tries to do, and near-saintly journalists like Nicholas Kristoff definitely do. Anyone with half a brain knows what a marvelous human being Kristoff is, and is not even trying to be a martyr, it just comes naturally, just like it came naturally for Audrey Hepburn to go do her UN ambassadress thing in her last years.

    Now, to the the undercover thing which takes great skill and is not open ‘to plain sight’ is much more aesthetic. It needs only its perfection of execution, it does not need fame, and indeed must not have it. This would be the thing to ponder. You’d need tell no one, and you also couldn’t.

    I’d say you’re right about those qualities of guiltlessness that would be looked for, then strengthened in needed personnel.

    “Maybe it’s the appeal of withdrawing from public view permanently and totally, becoming mystified in your absence, like a god. ”

    Well, you know, that’s just what OBL did, even though it was because he had to oversee the suicide and non=suicide personnel who had long deified. Hid ‘god-like-ness’ was truly over when Obama got him. I recall the near-unreality of those years when he was at large, and how it did not seem somehow possible to ever get him. He would have been a near-real god had he not been killed. I totally agree with Krauthammer of the WaPo that to have taken him alive would have been sheer insanity. It would have been the prevailing subject in the world even today. Nothing could have been stupider. ‘god’ is definitely dead, in OBL’s case. And, acc. to Zizek and EST, he ‘called it upon himself’, just like 6 million Jews and 20 or so kids in Connecticut and the dead and maimed in Boston.

    I see why you’re fascinated to apply some of these conjectures to both the Ct. boy and the Boston boy, probably because of your always-at-the-ready habit of these kinds of psychology for use in fiction.

    You know, by the way, until you’ve read American Terrorist, you may not know that McVeigh was very patriotic until what he saw Americans doing in Kuwait. This is, psychologically, perhaps even more interesting to me, because it’s clear that the First Gulf War is what ruined him, although it doesn’t excuse him. Maybe the fact that he had some real sensitivities made the ‘countdown’ perpetrated on the public in early summer, 2001, so hateful and unbearable. I think that was one of the most barbaric uses of media I have ever seen, and I found it personally very painful. It was a big circus show. I had not been in favour of this kind of killing, this state-sponsored capital punishment ever, as far back as I remember, as THAT is where the public is truly manipulated. But assassinating OBL was not capital punishment, like this idiot Amnesty International person said to me. And it did prove once and for all the OBL was not a god. I think his charisma had been unbelievably powerful, and some of the bleug truthers really had little conviction or interest in his ‘so-called innocence’ after they themselves had to really admit he was dead. At the bottom of their years-long bullshit (and I used quotes from Lawrence’s Al Qaeda book very effectively at Seymour’s bleug, who was opposed to most of what I stood for, but was in no way a truther himself), was this paltry little “oh well, we loved you and even tried to distort FBI statements to support your ‘innocence’. But, hey, you dead, bro, bettah you than me…”

    Comment by Patrick — 2 May 2013 @ 12:06 pm

    • “Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks occurred around the world, constituting 4% of all terrorist attacks but 32% (14,599 people) of all terrorism related deaths.[1] 90% of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.”

      It’s surely a lot easier to do at least something in those countries which are not prosperious, whether in employment figures or infrastructure, or being at war, or at the mercy of Islam. That’s the going violent world-religion right now, isn’t it? The Christian Crusades pre-date everybody, there’s Catholic paedophilia, but that’s not public terrorism in the usual sense. I don’t know about Hindus fighting Muslims in India for some years, but they have done. There was that terrorist in Bombay a few years ago, a Pakistani; the truthers, in their ragged-trouse debutante-slouch attitudes, naturally blamed it on the Indians and called the terrorist a ‘terrorist’, so cool and hipster, so cool.

      What’s the difference in suicide bombing by Muslims than any other kind of religious sacrifice of an extreme nature? Sometimes martyrdom is a high form of saintliness, but not all saints are exactly martyrs, and vice-versa.

      In any case, I conclude with that I think it impossible that the various Islamic terrorists (including the ones that bombed and got into one of the tabu Mecca mosques, that you find in Lawrence’s book) would not do a lot more of it if there weren’t extensive and beefed-up US intelligence, and British and more. I’m surprised that it’s been as relatively terrorism free given all the outrageous expenditure in Iraq, which diversion could have clearly cost us much more than it even did.

      And any charismatic leader can cause suicide, even if it’s not a terrorist attack. Look at Jim Jones, the asshole. What a fucking vileness. And that even created Al Qaeda in Iraq, even though that wasn’t the grandfather org.

      This thing about DeLillo thinking about the ‘writer altering the inner life of a society’ doesn’t seem very strong. I don’t know when they did to the degree that even the old wars did. It was still cannon and gunfire and shot-up limbs and dead soldiers and civilians. I have noticed that his work gets more and more insular as he gets older. ‘The Body Artist’ is a good book, but was probably criticized because it was just an odd tale. ‘Underworld’ is the only one that is bolder, but still has strange things that people might understand or not–if it’s common knowledge from TV shows, I wouldn’t know. I don’t know why TV doesn’t interest me, although I’m getting a new one shortly; it seems stupid to be without it, and the converter thing didn’t work well. I guess Upton Sinclair is one obvious example, but that can’t be what DeLillo means. Maybe he means Dickens. But also classical music has gone the way of non-influence, the new work is never embraced by big publics the way it used to be, and who still want to hear mostly 18th or 19th century music in concerts.

      But you have two things here for your ‘right up my alley!’ You have the novelist ‘Bill’ who doesn’t want a worldly success as a novelist, and you have DeLillo, who has one, and there’s no reason to think he would have kept publishing big sellers if he had wanted to keep them secret (he could, like anybody else.) So you might be stuck between a rock and a hard place on that one, but that’s your business. Like this: “He, along with his assistant Scott, believe that something is lost once a mass audience reads the work.”

      Maybe, but DeLillo himself obviously isn’t worried about that himself.

      Anyway, one last word about the Islamic terrorists: There would be no possible reason to suspect Islamic terrorists if they weren’t there and hadn’t accomplished enormous successes at destruction. Why else? Nobody thought about Muslims in the 70s and even 80s that much. And the 1993 attack on the WTC didn’t even wake us up, and it was HUGE. I remember going down there once it was all repaired to see their Orchid Show in the lobby. I thought, ‘yes, it was silly those people who refused to come back to work there’. And it was only 8 years later that those who were afraid may have saved their own asses, impossible to know.

      Comment by Patrick — 2 May 2013 @ 12:39 pm

  26. I’m thinking about all the fictions in which the story centers around covert ops. All of noir pretty much. The Wire, where it’s the illegal drug dealers matching wits with the undercover cops. Zero Dark Thirty, the fictionalized account of the CIA sniffing out OBL without themselves being detected. Or the Oscar winner Argo, where the CIA guy sneaks American embassy people out of Iran during the hostage crisis. To accomplish something visible while remaining invisible is the trick: presumably audience is drawn to these characters, these kinds of situations. The movies and novels let even the covert operative become a center of spectacle — having your cake and eating it too. I think about Wag the Dog, where Hollywood producer Dustin Hoffman just won’t keep his mouth shut about orchestrating a covert cover-up so the DeNiro the intelligence operative has him whacked.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 May 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  27. It’s hard to imagine even an excellent and successful writer like DeLillo altering the inner life of the culture, but I can imagine him imagining it. Early in the novel it seems that Bill allows himself to be photographed because he sees himself as a dead writer, someone who can’t write any more, maybe because he’s recognized the impotence of writing. But he is a successful writer at this point, and his assistant doesn’t want him to publish the next novel because it’s crappy. Presumably he kept out of the public eye to enhance his godlike persona, but it’s not working for him any more. He tells the photographer that it’s as if he’s posing for his own obituary. DeLillo doesn’t need to fantasize about being widely read and acclaimed: I wonder what he thinks about his work, whether he writes for himself or for the reader, whether he gives any thought any more about how the next book will be received.

    But you know this business about remaining invisible yet having a visible impact must be a persistent concern of his, since it plays out again in Point Omega. The secret military strategist is hiding out in the desert, but the even more secret psychopath comes in undetected and kills his daughter. You mention The Body Artist: there we have the mysterious person living undetected in the house.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 May 2013 @ 10:27 pm

    • I think I remember he was referring to Norman Mailer as the society-altering writer, it was in some interview I read a couple of years ago. He said that wasn’t possible anymore. I’m not sure just how much it was even possible with Mailer.

      Comment by Patrick — 3 May 2013 @ 2:34 am

      • Although he may have meant things like Mailer always being very visible, having fights with people, bad behaviour…but also running for mayor, being political in general, and maybe even writing novels called ‘Why Are We In Vietnam?’ which I tried to read in high school and couldn’t get very far. It’s hard to think of another novelist who was doing it quite like that. I guess the various feminists with their tracts were altering something, Friedan and Greer (who I’m told is the smartest of those old ones from the 70s), maybe Sontag, but I don’t think he meant them. He definitely mentioned Mailer as having this kind of big social project, big at least for a writer. Mario Vargas Llosa also ran president of Peru at some point. DeLillo definitely wants a lot or privacy, hard to think he really worries about whether a wide readership dilutes the work. He’s pretty prolific even though not young anymore (older than I thought), so probably doesn’t give it much thought. I usually don’t think of whether people have children or not, but I recall in that same interview that I thought it unlikely he didn’t have children, but he doesn’t even though is married.

        Comment by Patrick — 3 May 2013 @ 10:13 am

  28. So: we have Zizek’s “you want it” diagnosis of humanity’s masochistic desire for terroristic trauma, and we juxtapose it with DeLillo’s alter-ego Bill’s desire to have the cultural impact of a terrorist. Can Zizek be seen through DeLilo’s lens? Zizek is no longer an interpreter of culture but a shaper, or rather a destroyer of culture — a self-styled sadistic intellectual terrorist. And does Zizek see his own readers as masochists who desire to be destroyed by his ideas? Z’s post-traumatic subject is a destroyed subject, an Icharus reduced to a Sisyphus. If Zizek’s reader fully embraces and internalizes this self-definition that Z thrusts at him like a hand grenade, then the reader too is reduced to pure death drive, killed by Z’s terroristic philosophy.

    Here’s a quote I just read from “non-philosopher” Francois Laruelle, referring to the reader of philosophy:

    Inebriated and bastardized by Plato, liquefied and cogitated into concentrate by Descartes, moralized by Kant, whipped by Sade, devoured by Hegel, disgorged by Cerner [who’s he?], conscripted by Husserl, shooed out by Nietzsche, down the wrong pipe of Derrida, turned over by Heidegger, crapped out by Deleuze, thrown up by Laruelle, and it would ask for more if we let it.

    Maybe post-humanistic philosophy is an EST-like sadistic intervention directed at humans who masochistically desire to lose their humanity. The extreme philosopher breaks the trainees down in order to build them back up again in the philosopher’s image, as his undead puppets. Post-human = posthumous, whatever is left after the distinctively human has been killed off, suicide at the hands of the philosopher.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 May 2013 @ 7:06 am

    • “Maybe post-humanistic philosophy is an EST-like sadistic intervention directed at humans who masochistically desire to lose their humanity. ”

      It probably is a lot of the time, but not unlike many other organized ‘-isms’. Any religion can make you lose your humanity, I guess. I did notice that, if I hadn’t been prepared by those observations or ESTies and other various ‘ism-ists’, the constant talk by the Marxist bloggers of ‘you only think of yourself’ would have been asking for the same thing. This was constantly directed at me, which only made me, if it influenced me at all, all the more determined to be so individualistic I wouldn’t even value that that much anymore. I think IDNYC does manage this and maybe that’s enough of all that too, since it spawns spinoffs of itself that get a bit less oblique by now, and I find something of a new style which is harder-boiled than I expected ever to come upon, even if it’s still got that cursed tendency to ‘the pretty’ some of the time–this reminds me of noir , which I’ve been thinking of a good deal lately: Gleick may think ‘real life’ is fully permeable to all cyberspace, and this ‘no longer divided’ thing reminded me of my attraction to noir for such a long time: The attraction to it is vicarious for most, and had been for me, and it’s only when the ‘non-noir’ gets a little too non-porous that you see how much you really love noir, i.e., the ‘real-thing noir’ is very dangerous, and just a taste of it may get you sobered up from the enchantment very fast. I think I discovered this a little more intensely when I found those documents about Olav’s murder; I hadn’t ever known about it, but even after 30 years, it was a little like touching some kind of fully-realized noir. Although, all the movies and TV since 9/11 have outmoded noir, as well as increased surveillance and things like big mob stings make it seem like this kind of life, even for those who’ve really lived inside it, a thing becoming extinct. But these same Marxist bleugers would also criticize Dominic Fox for only writing about ‘me’ in his poems and writing in general, although I hardly find him so explicitly going through a ‘me phase’ as I have (and maybe still do.) But the hardest ones, including the one who agreed with me about the ESTian similarity to Zizek, use Marxism in much the same way: If they do any of the ‘grunt work’, they certainly never want it publicized! And I don’t think that qualifies them for what you were talking about with the ‘covert operative’. They just talk and bleug.

      All sadism and masochism in their many forms and degrees work that way, don’t they? The worst error is probably that the masochist needs to believe that the sadist is not also post-human, without human sensibilities. But he has to be, and hides this with slickness and sleekness. Which doesn’t mean one ought not be clever and wise to stupid naivetes, which I’ve gotten better about, for example. So there’d be a lot of forms of S & M, whether just social and not just sexual, where the ‘humanity’ of the masochist might even be protected by his unspoken knowledge of the cold-blooded conscience-lessness of the sadist. And the sadist, in extreme form, must have decided that that was the only ‘lifestyle choice’ he had. I remember Mulisch’s book about Hitler, and toward the end, even though Hitler knew his number was about up, he didn’t stop making phone calls to get those former allies of his murdered as long as the phones kept working.

      Zizek may or may not be as dangerous as the more mindless New Age things. You’ve come up, as this part of the thread has intensified, with some rich ideas with which you can do something. You’re not that much of a follower either. You’ve in the last one articulated Zizek as this similar kind of sadist, but more intellectual (I’d say that was the better word than Arpege’s ‘upmarket’, since by now they’re barely indistinguishable), which is a good way to force it to one logical conclusion, although it’s probably not literally true that Zizek is ‘all that bad’. But he has cultivated an adoring following, and they, like some of the followers in the New Age cults, always especially like it when he comes up with something that goes outside what the usual party line he’s standing for says. I remember that some New Age leaders like Leonard Orr or Erhart could say things about sleeping pills or ‘pollution yoga’ that would always tickle pink the ones who were feeling the pain of the strictures. And think how many swamis like that Hare Krishna one, Prabhapada, I think was one, would eventually get caught for sex and drug rings, at least in this country (not nearly all, of course, but they hypnotized a lot of ‘low-pleasure privilege’ for themselves.

      Just throwing out ideas here. As for seeing Zizek through DeLillo’s lens, I’m sure it’s a good enough one to see him through, and surely DeLillo couldn’t be bothered. He’s an artist, Zizek is not. Kristof is not really an artist, but he’s action-oriented and also not very interested in this kind of endless ‘cutesey’ talk, and I think Zizek is pretty much cutesey by now.

      But what you say about post-humanistic philosophy is interesting, and easier for me to consider it, since I never read it anymore, don’t care about my ‘lacks’ in the reading of it, don’t think that much about the philosophers unless some choice morsel comes into my mind. When I was reading a lot of it, which was after I was exposed to all the New Age stuff (and I admit tried to take a lot of it seriously for a dangerously long time, or too seriously I should say; It’s not all stupid either, although I wouldn’t come near Scientology: btw, maybe they picked up my number in that H’wood Headquarters? Maybe they knew that aside from really wanting directions, I wanted to condescend to them. And I certainly did hope to. No, I don’t think they could pick that up, that was cancelled out by just not harassing me. As for doing something covertly that will be highly visible but without the operative being so, maybe one does this from time to time in various ways, just not so violent, hateful and not even consciously deliberate, could just be some processes that happen in the flow of things in life, and might be choices between not terribly desirable alternatives. The outcome might still be powerful, even if it looked somewhat modest compared to these absurd things the Boston and Ct. maniacs did. There was some other thing about Mailer–oh yeah, not that big a deal, but he, like Sontag, always did get their opinions published in rather high style when something big happened. Mailer had a big story in New york Magazine, along with Jacob Weisberg, after O.j.’s initial verdict, although I don’t recall his doing a 9/11 piece for the New Yorker. Although he never cared about political correctness much, as calling Michiko Kakutani of the NYT a ‘one-woman kamikaze’, although she surely wasn’t suicidal.

      Comment by Patrick — 4 May 2013 @ 12:08 pm

      • I don’t think the charismatic leader, in wanting all these ‘posthuman, undead puppets’, himself realizes that he is himself also posthuman and undead, just not a puppet. That’s where the real poverty comes in: When it’s only a matter of who’s got the action, who’s running things and who are the puppets. Admittedly, there are times of urgency when this is about all that can be thought about, but it’s never enough. And the leaders of these sheepish types don’t seem to realize that they aren’t exalted by all sorts of non-followers, and don’t care. It does make one wonder why Tom Cruise doesn’t know that he’s high up in Scientology, but also ‘stuck in it’. In Wright’s excerpt of a few years ago (longer than I would have expected for then to all of a sudden be this big new book, but I could be wrong about how far back, maybe only 2 years), there was even mention that Cruise’s own ‘auditing sessions’ weren’t ‘going so well’, he wasn’t doing something right. Talk about ‘having your cake and eating it too’, it may be enough for Cruise’s un-huge mind to imagine that he has his movie career still flourishing, and also is fully indoctrinated and a part of Scientology. Criticism of Hollywood biggies who won’t criticize Scientology because of crass film industry matters involving Cruise go back 10 years or so. But it’s interesting that the only other really big H’wood name in Scientology is Travolta. The other celebs Wright mentioned are much lesser-known–Anne Archer, Mimi Rogers, a few others. By contrast, some very intelligent people took EST, like Joanne Woodward (who’d have ever believed it, and she made a TV movie with herself playing a shrink who had a patient she told “I have to make this REAL for you”. Such a fine actress, but then she already had it made in a lot of ways. Oh yes, it’s of some importance that EST really did not affect/infect nearly all those who took it to the same degree. There were some who took it who shocked me, it so seemed to go against who I thought they were, and they always ended up, much like AA people offering you bad wine, saying ‘you don’t have to take it’. I didn’t, of course, but I wanted to mention Clorinda de Stockallper, the Swiss baroness/pianist/dancer/nun. SHE took EST and was the only one I talked to who hadn’t seemed to be bothered much by it, nor influenced by it in any way. She used none of their jargon, nor did she really repudiate it. I was impressed by how she could barely even remember it, and when she talked of her Catholic faith, I once asked her “Does EST compare at all with your religious convictions as a Catholic?” and her answer was quite unambiguous: “Oh NO! Absolutely not! Not a ‘t’all!!” But that was partially because of the way she’d been brought up, and that EST is very much an American thing. The rest of them were all trying to ‘train you’ in your own home (or theirs, acc. to where you might be. One girl tried so hard with me in this apt., that her sister had to call up and apologize to me, that there had been a spate of spontaneous would-be EST-trainers that even the org. was criticizing (of course, they didn’t pocket anything from the failures.)

        Comment by Patrick — 4 May 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  29. I read a cultural analysis book once, no longer remember title or author, which proposed that cultural criticism almost always follows the same paradigm: there is a societal epidemic, here is the diagnosis, here the cause, now here is the cure. But there’s something different about some of the “extreme philosophies” like Zizek’s: the disease IS the cure. So you’re post-traumatically sick, but there is no cure; what you must do is push through the void, negate the negation, turn post-traumatic zombie power into some sort of irresistible force, drive undistracted by desire or its denial. Also the accelerationists: if capitalism is the cause of the malaise, let’s push it to the limit and see what happens. From your description the ESTers could fit this disease-is-the-cure viewpoint. There’s a precedent in Christianity’s fetishizing of paradox: your strength is perfected in weakness, the last shall be first, dead to self and alive in Christ, and so on.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 May 2013 @ 6:22 pm

    • No, the ESTies are at least not stupid enough to sell a populist program that says ‘disease is the cure’, it tells you the follow-up, which Zizek wants to leave out, so as to become an immovable rock in the pantheon of serious current (read ‘modish’ in his case), and talk in ever darkening tones. If he didn’t say things as stupid as ‘left-wing Thatcher’, which is a total oxymoron, he might make some sense, but he also knows it won’t lose any followers, and he thinks he’s got such a good job, he no longer cares that he looks like a real slob (and is.) No, the EST-ies also say you can ‘cure the disease’ just as you brought it one yourself, although carefully woven into this is that you probably ‘can’t’ do this without supporting the EST organization (when it was still extant. I STILL don’t know why Erhart lives in the Cayman Islands, at least beyond guessing.) Scientology also promises ‘cure’ and this ‘cure’ probably can be imagined to have happened to those who pay and stay in the organization, and don’t ask too many questions or think too many thoughts. Uncooperative ones have been locked up, denied medical care, and one of the tenets is even anti-psychiatry.

      You may be right that Zizek is saying ‘disease is the cure’, but how ‘push through’ or ‘drive undistracted by desire or its denial’ without energy from something or other. This subject is supposed to be worn-out, de-libidinized, so why give him a prescription as to ‘how to live the post-traumatic subject?’ He’ll die of ‘dark inertia’, as in the Bhagavad-Gita in little enough time anyway.

      I think what I am saying is that I just don’t take Zizek seriously, I think he is a fraud, after all if you ‘negate the negation’, anybody who half runs the phrase over a few times realizes that if the negation is negated you may come up with something useful and positive.

      What I don’t understand is how he stays in business. When Baudrillard used the ‘darkening tones’ that befit contemporary philosophers, it seemed that, even with the mess, that he thought. Zizek actually seems fashion-oriented, mindless.

      It does not make any sense on any level whatever to posit that ‘the disease is the cure’ but that ‘there is no cure’. If it’s the cure, it fucking CURES. The Course in Miracles talks about how sickness is used as a ‘solution’ and can be used as a ‘way of life’, but it doesn’t quite resort to ‘best just accept your lot and sink or swim, ’cause I got mine’. The Course also then says things like ‘only salvation can be said to cure’ and ‘separation is the only problem’–hey, that sounds a little like the ‘icon’ which covers everybody and everything. It’s hard to know whether separation and isolation are not actually more beneficial than ‘joining in’. You obviously have to do both.

      Anyway, a lot of people take Zizek seriously. A few take the accelerationists seriously, and I think both are too lazy to actually be creative, no matter what discipline, whether in science, the Arts and humanities, or wherever. Both seem to have a taste for disaster and carnage, and as long as there are those under their thrall, Laruelle has probably at least begun some kind of service.

      You say his ‘post-traumatic subject’ might be useful in your fiction, but what has always been obvious about Zizek is that he doesn’t care how destructive his exaggerations are, he is not trying to ‘be of help’ to anybody. The more you talk about him the more I feel about him the way Capote felt about Joyce Carol Oates: “To see her is to hate her, to know her is to loathe her, to read her is to absolutely vomit”. One of the most disappointing thinks Joan Didion has done in her recent appearances, interviews, or whenever, is to defend Oates, who also wrote a ‘grief book’, but very quickly re-married. I read one half-decent novel, and that was enough, she just cranks them out. By the way, Joan even said ‘Her subjects are everything’, so you better watch out. The ‘bathrobed man’ will be subject to rejection and ignoring if he turns out to be Joyce Carol Oates. I think Joan thinks she’s deserved the right to ‘be dotty’, and does so.

      Comment by Patrick — 5 May 2013 @ 10:39 am

  30. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/us/dzhokhar-tsarnaevs-dark-side-carefully-masked.html?ref=global-home&_r=0

    You probably know this, but the revelations about the Boston Chechens get curiouser and curiouser. Not only very recent converts to Islam in 2011 via their mother, I think it’s the surviving one who even converted to 9/11 truther. The first paragraph alone is mind-boggling: lounging and joking with friends after the bombing. None of it matters ‘except God’, that’s an easy way out. Street evangelists do it. Once on the old 42nd St. just after O.J.’s first innocent verdict, I turned east on 8th Avenue, and an evangelist screaming with a mike (at least they’ve gotten rid of these assholes, with their sermons on ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’), this guy said to me “Look at this man, he believes in the devil”, and I looked back and said “FUCK YOU!” to which, since it didn’t get amplified, he trembled “Oh maaahhh god, oh maaaahhh god…” All my friends loved it.

    Comment by Patrick — 5 May 2013 @ 11:03 am

  31. The surviving brother seems to have been a fairly together kid until very recently. The lounging and joking suggests some kind of serious disconnect, or else some pretty unflappable cool. A fairly rapid descent into being a bad student, having violent dreams, smoking lots of weed. Blunt trauma to head and torso contributed to the older brother’s death — it must have resulted from the younger brother running him over during the getaway. I wonder if he wanted that bully dead. Late teens are a tough time for many, typical onset age for schizophrenia. My grades dropped, I quit school, I underwent religious conversion in Morocco while carrying a kilo of hash en route with a Canadian machine gun enthusiast to Algeria to train for the revolution with Eldridge Cleaver. My outlook was bleak, my direction aimless; I was up for anything.

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 May 2013 @ 2:36 pm

  32. I see in today’s news that the FBI prevented a terror attack in some little town in Minnesota. The neighbor said that the suspect had been flying an upside-down American flag, which I understand is an emblem of the Tea Party’s distress over Obama’s re-election. I wonder what the guy wanted to blow up as a political statement out there in the middle of nowhere.

    Comment by ktismatics — 6 May 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    • I looked at Nick Land’s bleug moderately thoroughly for the first time in about 2 months. It’s become almost an upside-down American flag itself, in any case all the neo-reac beta-nerds are all out in full fury and its purpose seems to, of course, accelerate even itself unto its own logical self-destruction. In the last few days, somebody fixated on some lunatic Canadian ‘prison-dating’ service, in which all these women want to ‘hook up’, as the twinks say now, with all these hung alphas doin’ time in Sing Sing or wherever. This means to some of these truly fired-up, super-linked, all-internet-all-the-time far-rightists that the West is ‘over’, I think Nick or one of the others says ‘you can stick a fork in it’ or something, and some anonymous commenter on one of the ‘Heartiste’ threads about this prison thing said that it couldn’t ever be like that in China, Singapore and Japan where ‘they shoot people for littering. But it’s a logical thing if completely for only crackers women, if they can only be satisfied by hardened criminals, whom they forgive for just murdering someone, and they want to be ‘non-judgmental’, they’re just mindless, sound like they’ve taken Course in Miracles too far, all those just loved OBL in particular, because you ‘could forgive him’, and ‘he is your brother’. Mushbrains. But ‘American Terrorist’ had all these dames writing McVeigh and telling him how hot he was (first time I heard anything along those lines, except for sales of Gaycee’s prison drawings (that’s a little more understandable why someone might want to take some time and study those, but really only some kinds of experts, and I don’t know if experts in ‘criminal tendencies in drawing’ actually aren’t just like palm-readers), so this is just another crazed fringe element.

      They also had many talking about how anything said about homosexuals had the ‘Cathedralists’ at their asses calling them ‘gay-bashing’, this came up with Niall Ferguson’s remarks about Keynes, who I didn’t even know was gay till I read the nerds’ bleugs just now, although I should have. They all say that homosexuals have a ‘shorter time horizon’, this is all hilarious to me, and I agree I don’t know why Ferguson should be attacked all that seriously, and he had to apologize. But, man, they are INTO this, not realizing that their extreme ‘alpha envy’ is so exposed, and that they’ve had to compromise with many lesb’ans of the ‘Cathedral’, most likely. They have begun to seem like 1% Cathedralists themselves, and I feel totally NOT energized and DO feel dissipated at having spent over an hour reading this shit. And I thought leftists were hysterical (well, they often are.) They did say some interesting things about Scandiniavian ‘power’ to ‘over-cathedralize’ even tough people, I found that amusing.

      All of it was funny. And the re-election of Obama SO infuriated these diverse fringe groups that they ‘are all MAD AS HELL and THEY’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!’ Unfortunately, the intensity of the rage says a lot, and they’re all so differently detailed in their definitions of various new terms I’ve already forgotten after an hour that nobody does anything except some more talking.

      This is good on what we were talking about last week, you probably saw it yesterday. They know they don’t have the capabilities to do another 9/11, much less get nuclear weapons, so the small, gratuitously destructive attacks may or may not start happening more. If they’re being called for, why wouldn’t they? They all do what they’re told. I think it’s more scary still, though, for big cities, because even if small, those will really scare people if they do one in a big metropolitan area, and the Boston business really has freaked people out, and no wonder.


      Also, remember that even before 9/11 and shortly after the 1993 WTC bombing, there was the foiled New York Landmark Bombing Plot by the same group of Rahman people (some of these people, I think Yousef, was related to one of the biggies in the 9/11 plot, uncle, nephew, something, it’s in Wright’s book) and that Al Qaeda productions against Americans continued in Nairobi with the embassy, there was the USS Cole and the Khobar Apts. in Saudi arabia, which killed a bunch of Americans, so it can be anti-American even if not on U.S. soil.

      I think Virilio’s book was talking about the long-term terrorism in relation to the IRA (I hadn’t thought that that would be unique, but then I hadn’t thought about where ‘terrorism prevailed’ elsewhere in the world either.) So the IRA had numerous attacks, including in the City of London (I think, I believe this is even talked about and destruction shown in that fine Patrick Keillor film ‘London’), but they never had the wherewithal of whatever kind to do something as flashy as 9/11. A lot more of it has to do with what they can do than what they just would like to do, and this is the kind of thing Wright’s book was good at, and I don’t come about on my own. I just think if there can be 9/11, there can be another one, but then the campaigns against Al Qaeda have been much more successful than their own long-range plans (I believe Wright had them mapped out over at least 2 or 3 decades, or at least past 2020) were counting on. Once Hillary did almost come out all the way and say (and basically did) that if Al Gore had been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. I think that’s true, he would never have been so cavalier with intelligence like that.

      But I think the funniest thing the neo-reactionaries do is complain to the ‘sociables’ (not socialists, mind you) that they are being mistreated as ‘anti-sociable’, then they talk about somebody they ‘forget is intelligent and often honest, but still the enemy’.

      Main thing I noticed looking at NL’s bleug after 2 months, is it’s mainly more re-hashing and just makes you feel like you’ve dissipated, rather than hearing anything shocking, as I used to think. They all keep saying ‘the Cathedral has won’, but don’t note that they are themselves at least more like Cathedralists than they used to be. It seems primarily to be the same kind of sensation-seeking that the 9/11 truthers used to be looking for, in inventing these mad scenarios. Sort of sad, really, because it’s obviously a source of ‘pleasure’ for the participants, but they don’t like the word ‘pleasure’, it’s ‘decadent’. Oh well, there are a lot of sad things.

      The Tea Party and domestic militias, etc., aren’t nearly as dangerous to my mind, in terms of terrorism, as are militant Muslims, even if they have to settle for small-scale attacks (and these doubtlessly can never be stopped in some sense), because the Tea Party is crazy but legal, and indeed they were very dangerous just a few years ago during the debt ceiling horrors of July, 2011, but they are now so politically marginalized that Krugman seems to be able to afford yet a new op-ed every few days about how to marginalize the ‘austerity freaks’ still more. It’s a pleasure to see him have that luxury, because I didn’t know we’d be in even this good shape by now, but then I know nothing about such things but what I read from smarties.

      The Ferguson apology also included that he forgot that Keynes’s ‘ballerina wife’ had miscarried, meaning I guess that he wouldn’t have ‘not cared about the future like homosexuals don’t’ (who are ‘present-oriented’). He had said that he and his wife probably ‘talked more about poetry to his wife than procreated’. Just sounds like a sort of drunk-talk that well-known people don’t have the luxury of indulging in. I hadn’t know he was now married to Aayan Hirsi Ali. Oh, people say all sorts fo rude things, going anti-Keynes on something like that doesn’t change the price of oranges (or whatever the saying is, I’m trying to channel Frank Rich…)

      Comment by Patrick — 7 May 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  33. It looks like I’m not going to use Zizek in this current fiction after all. Not this so-called Dark Enlightenment stuff either — no cause at the moment for writing about eugenically amped up laissez-faire capitalist-nationalist masters herding Zizek’s post-traumatic zombie proles onto massive Development Zone construction sites.

    Comment by ktismatics — 8 May 2013 @ 11:16 am

  34. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/us/baffling-rise-in-suicides-plagues-us-military.html?pagewanted=all

    PTSD and suicide in the military (NOT usually in combat). Good article about this by Peter Baker.

    Comment by Patrick — 16 May 2013 @ 9:51 am

  35. Zizek’s reference to Muslim is (confusingly) referring to the name used for those in death camps, particularly Nazi ones. He does not mean the Muslim religion or Muslims at all.

    Comment by D — 4 March 2015 @ 11:08 pm

    • Confusing is an understatement. You’re not just negating the negation here are you, D?

      Comment by ktismatics — 4 March 2015 @ 11:40 pm

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