Thursday, April 20, 2017

From the post following the one linked below.
Among the weirder allegations I've seen on Facebook as to why philosophers shouldn't read the book is that Kipnis doesn't understand the difference between sex and rape. This is an absurd fabrication, and was not, of course, supported with any textual evidence. But it is a good indication that Hellie is on to something here about how desperate some of those involved in the initial witchhunt are feeling about the world at large now knowing how reckless some vocal members of the "profession" were.
"profession" in scare quotes. I'm not sure Leiter understands the implication.

From Rickles to Kipnis
NY Times on the Kipnis book
This is a rather apt appraisal:
Kipnis has now written a book, “Unwanted Advances,” about feminism, relationship statecraft and the shadow world of Title IX investigations. It is invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, “Unwanted Advances” is necessary. Argue with the author, by all means. But few people have taken on the excesses of university culture with the brio that Kipnis has.
What is significant about the book for the academic community in philosophy is that--its occasional glibness and fascination with its own meta-narrative about alleged "sexual paranoia" on campus aside--it sets out in compelling detail two recent injustices against now-former members of the community of employed philosophers, David Barnett and Peter Ludlow. It was always clear, at least to me, that Barnett had been wrongfully treated; the Ludlow case was less clear to me, at least until I read this book and had an opportunity to read the depositions in the lawsuit brought by the undergraduate.
Kipnis has a BFA from The San Francisco Art Institute, an MFA from The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and is a veteran of the Whitney ISP.  The first is famous as a free-for-all, the second as a center for "conceptual art", art as philosophical/political illustration, in the 70s, and the third along the same lines, mixing puritanical politics and careerism in an art world finishing school. 30 years ago a visiting artist guest speaker was attacked for casting sculptures in bronze, considered a male medium.

I used George Kuchar for the SFAI link; this fits too (I thought I'd written more about him) and this one as well.

You have to feel a little sorry these days for professors married to their former students. They used to be respectable citizens —leaders in their fields, department chairs, maybe even a dean or two—and now they’re abusers of power avant la lettre. I suspect you can barely throw a stone on most campuses around the country without hitting a few of these neo-miscreants. Who knows what coercions they deployed back in the day to corral those students into submission; at least that’s the fear evinced by today’s new campus dating policies. And think how their kids must feel! A friend of mine is the offspring of such a coupling—does she look at her father a little differently now, I wonder.
In 1992 I was chairman of the History Department at New York University—where I was also the only unmarried straight male under sixty. A combustible blend: prominently displayed on the board outside my office was the location and phone number of the university’s Sexual Harassment Center. History was a fast-feminizing profession, with a graduate community primed for signs of discrimination—or worse. Physical contact constituted a presumption of malevolent intention; a closed door was proof positive.

Shortly after I took office, a second-year graduate student came by. A former professional ballerina interested in Eastern Europe, she had been encouraged to work with me. I was not teaching that semester, so could have advised her to return another time. Instead, I invited her in. After a closed-door discussion of Hungarian economic reforms, I suggested a course of independent study—beginning the following evening at a local restaurant. A few sessions later, in a fit of bravado, I invited her to the premiere of Oleanna—David Mamet’s lame dramatization of sexual harassment on a college campus.

How to explain such self-destructive behavior? What delusional universe was mine, to suppose that I alone could pass untouched by the punitive prudery of the hour—that the bell of sexual correctness would not toll for me? I knew my Foucault as well as anyone and was familiar with Firestone, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, e tutte quante.1 To say that the girl had irresistible eyes and that my intentions were…unclear would avail me nothing. My excuse? Please Sir, I’m from the ‘60s.

...So how did I elude the harassment police, who surely were on my tail as I surreptitiously dated my bright-eyed ballerina?

Reader: I married her.
Leiter quoting the NYT again
...invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, “Unwanted Advances” is necessary.
As opposed to the vast number of books written by "professional philosophers" that are both un-contradictory and unnecessary.

I've assumed the worst about Ludlow because I assume the worst about academic pedants. That applies to his accuser just as easily. Kipnis on the other hand is a bit of a libertine. That's where she got her start. The politics of libertinism is problematic at best, at worst of course it's fascist.
As an aside, I'll add that Adam Lindemann in June is showing new paintings by Michel Houellebecq).

As a coda... Here's George.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

"Ebony and Ivory" over the closing credits

Two in a row

"So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both."
...It seems as if the liberal program of attempting to shame and berate people into being more open-minded and tolerant may have backfired. Listening to interviews with Donald Trump’s supporters during his once-implausible rise, I was struck by how many of them mentioned that they admire that “he’s not politically correct.” This was often a not-unbreakable code for saying he was a refreshingly unapologetic bigot. But it’s still worth noticing that apparently telling people they’re not allowed to say certain things or feel certain ways, that their opinions aren’t just incorrect but morally wrong, does not, after all, make them better people; it makes them hate your guts.

“You’re black, I’m white,” Mr. Rickles said to an audience member. “It’s the breaks.” This line is a direct ancestor of a Louis C. K. bit: “I’m not saying white people are better — I’m saying that being white is clearly better.” The comic duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who have rhetorical dispensation to be funny about such things by virtue of being biracial, like to palpate the touchiest spots in the American racial psyche — playing two upscale yuppies trying out out-black each other at a soul food restaurant by ordering items like cellar doors and human feet, or slaves on the auction block getting increasingly touchy and peeved as they keep not selling. Laughter is a saner, more restorative response to the world’s injustice than self-righteous scolding.

Mr. Rickles’s show that night was weirdly schizoid, alternating between snapping epithets and waxing sentimental about how he loves to make people laugh, his deep love for his mother and Frank Sinatra. The official line was that Mr. Rickles’s pit-bull hostility was a stage persona; his real-life personality was legendarily warm and generous. Of course his insults would never have been funny if he’d actually meant them — his persona is a parody. (Contrast that with alt-right iconoclasts like Milo Yiannopoulos, who confuse authentic bigotry and cruelty with humor.) But all that anger, even if it’s an act, must come from somewhere.

So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both. We all are, albeit most of us not in such cartoonishly binary form. Maybe trying to stifle and disown the former makes the latter more brittle and false, more of an act. And maybe it’s venting the former persona onstage, as it were, set off from real life by the quotation marks of humor, that allows us to be more genuinely decent.
It was inevitable that someone would come to play the role Key and Peele are playing.
Can a film be too inflammatory for its own good, or are there times, and places, when only fire will suffice? In an interview with the Times, Peele, whose mother is white, admitted that the movie was originally intended “to combat the lie that America had become post-racial,” and the result is like an all-out attack on a rainbow. Short of making us listen to “Ebony and Ivory” over the closing credits, “Get Out” could hardly be more provocative. There’s a scene with a head-stamping, a scene with an exposed brain, and a truly creepy scene with a bowl of Froot Loops. And yet, despite all that, what makes this horror film horrific is the response that it gives to the well-meaning and problem-solving question “Can’t we just learn to live together?” To which the movie answers, loud and clear, “No.”
"Short of making us listen to 'Ebony and Ivory' over the closing credits"
Black comedy for white people isn't new. Black comedy for white people, directed at white people, is.

Leiter contra Rickles
Not "freedom of speech," but "freedom of [specific kinds of] expression" 
Philosopher Robert Simpson (Monash) comments.
(Thanks to Jerry Dworkin for the pointer.)
I've mocked Leiter for his defense of hate speech laws, and I've mocked others for obliviousness to racism -Christakis et al. never have defended speech they themselves found offensive- but I never caught the obvious point that Leiter is the one academic pundit I know of who both opposes freedom of speech and mocks the fragility that follows from his preference.

Another older link from Leiter.
A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.
The last paragraph on Rickles again
So was Mr. Rickles a bigot or a mensch? The truth, probably, is that he was both. We all are, albeit most of us not in such cartoonishly binary form. Maybe trying to stifle and disown the former makes the latter more brittle and false, more of an act. And maybe it’s venting the former persona onstage, as it were, set off from real life by the quotation marks of humor, that allows us to be more genuinely decent.
My old description and defense of "expressive" speech as honesty, not just as the best policy for speakers but also strengthening the resilience of an audience, requirements for the burdens of self-government. It's important not to be protected from knowledge of the world.

We live in bubbles that only others can burst. Arguments otherwise by comparison, are brittle and false.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blogs.Reuters, Jack Shafer, 2011
After Broadcast News attacks the foolishness of people like Koppel who insist on a set-in-concrete distinction between news and entertainment. Comedians, talk-show hosts, and satirists are better equipped than professional journalists to refute the fictions that clog the news stream, Williams and Delli Carpini maintain. “[T]he line between news and entertainment is inherently blurred and contestable and never fully maps the boundaries between politically relevant media forms. It was only the regulations, institutions, norms, and practices that came to define the broadcast news media regime that made such distinctions seem natural,” they write. 
One excellent example of this blurring offered by Williams and Delli Carpini is the work and career of CBS News legend Edward R. Murrow, who in the early 1950s investigated wrong-doings with his See It Now program at the same time he was chatting up celebrities (Brando, Bogart, Monroe, Sinatra) on his Person to Person broadcasts.
"Comedians, talk-show hosts, and satirists are better equipped than professional journalists to refute the fictions that clog the news stream" And better equipped than academics.

After Broadcast News: Media Regimes, Democracy, and the New Information Environment Published in 2011. I'd have to read it to find out if the authors are smart enough to see how their argument undermines the claims of their own field.

Comedians and Lawyers, theory vs practice, Socrates vs Aristophanes, etc.

"[T]he line between news and entertainment is inherently blurred"

So much for the distinction between high value and low value, propositional and expressive, serious and non-serious, parasitic speech.

So much for philosophy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

re: defenses of Charlie Hebdo and bans on Palestinian protests, freedom of speech vs freedom of "acceptable" speech. etc.
A weather report on the France 2 television channel broke broadcasting records last week. Some 5.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Mélanie Ségard, a 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome, take a turn as guest meteorologist on the network. Wearing TV makeup and an irrepressible smile, she forecast clouds and rain for most of the country and lots of sunshine for Marseilles.

Ms. Ségard fulfilled a lifelong dream to show that “I can do a lot of things,” as she put it on Facebook. But for French society, this was a fraught moment. It clashed with a strand of cultural liberalism that treats the existence of people like Ms. Ségard as an affront to reason and good taste.

Her appearance was facilitated by a disability-rights group ahead of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. It was all the more heartening because previous efforts to bring visibility to people with disabilities in France have run afoul of broadcast regulations that restrict images of happy people with Down syndrome. Such images are undesirable, regulators argue, since they could give second thoughts to women who have sought abortions.

At its best, liberalism revels in the hubbub of a crowded marketplace of ideas. But a dour, self-righteous and conformist model has now come to define the liberal idea across much of Europe, one that brooks no dissent from the latest progressive precepts.

Those of us who worry about the fragility of the liberal order and growing populist sentiment would be well-advised to pay more attention to how people on the sharp end of such “liberalism” experience it.

Take the Down syndrome debate in France. The Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, upheld a ban last year on a World Down Syndrome Day TV ad that showed DS young adults, like Ms. Ségard, addressing a pregnant woman considering whether to terminate a DS fetus: “Your child will be able to do many things.” “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

The “Dear Future Mum” ad risked “disturbing the conscience” of women who had aborted DS pregnancies, the Council of State held in a November ruling. As it is, nine of 10 fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome in France are aborted. Set aside the abortion and disability politics: It is hard to see how any ads about contentious issues would survive the ruling’s purely subjective standard. That is, if it’s applied consistently.
Yes, the author's an ass.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dear Verso,
The bourgeoisification and secularization of Islam is the march of capitalism, not a victory for the left. But should I point out the Vermeer reference for the kids who don't get the joke?



Saturday, March 18, 2017

I was planning a post, looking at the Brexit negotiations in terms of game theory (more precisely, bargaining theory), but Frances Coppola has saved me the trouble. One reason for my hesitation was concerns similar to those expressed by Ariel Rubinstein, in a 2013 piece that seems to be having a bit of a revival...
The Overton Window has moved.  It only makes sense that the first person at CT to admit to anti-Zionism is a blue-eyed Jew. The rest will follow; he's given them permission. And at some point Quiggin will consider putting Israel before the ICC, and of course will refer to opponents in the language of "Agnotology" [etc.] arguing that his own scientific understanding allowed him to come to the only logical conclusion.  Lets wait for the lies to start. Ain't Enlightenment grand?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The "Smart" and the "Folk"

File under pathology (spot the dissonance, etc.)
Two from Leiter.

1- On the "smart"
A nicely written essay by Rick Perlstein. 
Perlstein: On the liberal cult of the cognitive elite
Now I better understand why: often, the cult of “smart” is a superstition. In LBJ’s time, to believe in it was “abnormal.” Now, that belief is collective—quite nearly unanimous. Which doesn’t make things easier for the Democrats pushing the ideology of cognitive elitism most assiduously. “Why do working-class Bush voters tend to resent intellectuals more than they do the rich?” David Graeber asked in 2007. “It seems to me the answer is simple. They can imagine a scenario in which they might become rich but cannot possibly imagine one in which they, or any of their children, would become members of the intelligentsia.” 
For if you’re not a part of the intelligentsia, well, how can you possibly make the world better for your existence in it? This frustration, however, is precisely what makes perfectly decent people, whose only sin is that a self-arrogated cognitive elite doesn’t consider them particularly useful, such easy pickings for political con men who assure them that they’re actually the smart ones. And that, all in all, is not very smart.
2- Psychologists who study "happiness" use a concept unrecognizable to the folk
Joshua Knobe (Yale) discusses
CORRECTION: This piece is written by Prof. Knobe's co-author, Jonathan Phillips, who took a PhD in philosophy and psychology at Yale, and is a currently a post-doc at Harvard. (Thanks to Bob Gamboa for the correction.)
Start by imagining a man named Tom:
Tom always enjoys his job as a janitor at a local community college. What he likes most about his job is how it gives him a chance to meet the young female students who are attending the community college. Almost every single day Tom feels good and generally experiences a lot of pleasant emotions. In fact, it is very rare that he would ever feel negative emotions like sadness or loneliness. When Tom thinks about his life, he always comes to the same conclusion: he feels highly satisfied with the way he lives.
The reason Tom feels this way is that every day he goes from locker to locker and steals belongings from the students and re-sells these belongings to buy himself alcohol. Each night as he's going to sleep, he thinks about the things he will steal the next day.
Now ask yourself about what Tom feels like: Does Tom feel bad? Does he feel satisfied with what he's doing? Does he feel good? 
Okay, regardless of what you thought about those questions. Now just ask yourself this: Is Tom happy? 
If you’re anything like the participants in our studies in a new paper in the Jouurnal of Experimental Psychology: General, the answer to these two kinds of questions will come apart. People tend to agree that Tom feels good and is satisfied, but at the same time, they don't agree that he is happy. This seems to suggest that people think there’s more to being happy than just feeling good. Perhaps to truly be happy, you also have to be good.

What’s striking about this pattern of judgments is that it suggests ordinary people think about happiness in a way that contradicts the definition that is widely used by scientists. For scientists who research and measure happiness (or politicians who make policy decisions based on increasing happiness), being happy is nothing more than the combination of feeling good and being satisfied — it really doesn't matter why you feel that way.

To investigate why people’s judgments about happiness were being influenced by whether or not the person was living a morally bad life, we conducted a number of further studies.
The title of the paper: "True Happiness: The Role of Morality in the Folk Concept of Happiness."

The first sentence of the abstract
Recent scientific research has settled on a purely descriptive definition of happiness that is focused solely on agents’ psychological states (high positive affect, low negative affect, high life satisfaction). In contrast to this understanding, recent research has suggested that the ordinary concept of happiness is also sensitive to the moral value of agents’ lives.
"This research was supported by an Office of Naval Research Grant..."

The inability to intuit even one's own sense of the world. The shallow passivity of false "objectivity" It's either autism or pseudo-autism. The "folk"

Knobe now has his own tag.

"all of us are most people most of the time"

"The President and Other Intellectuals" again,
"Had not fully appreciated until now how much the relentless American drive for optimism resembles abject denial."

"The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny"

Perlstein is a proud defender of Humphrey.

"Norman Sherman's idea of fun is attending a political convention. He has been active in liberal politics since before he could vote, often as a ghostwriter and editor of speeches and books.
His story describes a life working for Minnesota political leaders: Governors Orville Freeman and Karl Rolvaag, Congressman Don Fraser, Senators Wendell Anderson, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. He was press secretary to Vice President Humphrey, including during the 1968 campaign, and edited Humphrey's autobiography. He began his working career as an instructor in humanities at the University of Minnesota and ended it as a professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. He describes the world of politics with good humor and grace."

My mother said she divorced him because he had no sense of the tragedy of life. Her contempt was absolute.

"They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition. "

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

From, What Remains? The Language Remains: A Conversation with Günter Gaus.
Trans. Joan Stambaugh.

["The ellipses here and elsewhere are in the original; they do not indicate omission of material. -Ed."]
Arendt: The expression "political philosophy," which I avoid, is extremely burdened by tradition. When I talk about these things, academically or nonacademically, I always mention that there is a vital tension between philosophy and politics. That is, between man as a thinking being and man as an acting being, there is a tension that does not exist in natural philosophy, for example. Like everyone else, the philosopher can be objective with regard to nature, and when he says what he thinks about it he speaks in the name of all mankind. But he cannot be objective or neutral with regard to politics. Not since Plato!

Gaus: I understand what you mean.

Arendt: There is a kind of enmity against all politics in most philosophers, with very few exceptions. Kant is an exception. This enmity is extremely important for the whole problem, because it is not a personal question. It lies in the nature of the subject itself.

Gaus: You want no part in this enmity against politics because you believe that it would interfere with your work?

Arendt: "I want no part in this enmity," that's it exactly! I want to look at politics, so to speak, with eyes unclouded by philosophy.


Arendt: You see, I came out of a purely academic background. In this respect the year 1933 made a very lasting impression on me. First a positive one and then a negative one. Perhaps I had better say first a negative one and then a positive one. People often think today that German Jews were shocked in 1933 because flitter assumed power. As far as I and people of my generation are concerned, I can say that that is a curious misunderstanding. Naturally Hitler's rise was very bad. But it was political. It wasn't personal. We didn't need Hitler's assumption of power to know that the Nazis were our enemies! That had been completely evident for at least four years to everyone who wasn't feebleminded. We also knew that a large number of the German people were behind them. That could not shock us or surprise us in 1933.

Gaus: You mean that the shock in 1933 came from the fact that events went from the generally political to the personal?

Arendt: Not even that. Or, that too. First of all, the generally political became a personal fate when one emigrated. Second ...friends "co-ordinated" or got in line. The problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did but what our friends did. In the wave of Gleichschaltung (co-ordination), which was relatively voluntary —in any case. not yet under the pressure of terror—it was as an empty space formed around one. I lived in an intellectual milieu, but I also knew other people. And among intellectuals Gleichschaltumg was the rule, so to speak. But not among the others. And I never forgot that. I left Germany dominated by the idea—of course somewhat exaggerated: Never again!  I shall never get involved in any kind of intellectual business. I wanted nothing to do with that lot. Also I didn't believe then that Jews and German Jewish intellectuals would have acted any differently had their own circumstances been different. That was not my opinion. I thought that it had to do with this profession, with being an intellectual. 1 am speaking in the past tense. Today I know more about it....

Gaus: I was just about to ask you if you still believe that.

Arendt: No longer to the same degree. But I still think that it belongs to the essence of being an intellectual that one fabricates ideas about everything. No one ever blamed someone if he "co-ordinated" because he had to take care of his wife or child. The worst thing was that some people really believed in Nazism!  For a short time, many for a very short time. But that means that they made up ideas about Hitler, in part terrifically interesting things! Completely fantastic and interesting and complicated things! Things far above the ordinary level! I found that grotesque. Today I would say that they were trapped by their own ideas. That is what happened. But then, at that time, I didn't see it so clearly.

Gaus: And that was the reason that it was particularly important for you to get out of intellectual circles and start to do work of a practical nature?

Arendt: Yes. The positive side is the following. I realized what I then expressed time and again in the sentence: If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German. Not as a world-citizen, not as an upholder of the Rights of Man, or whatever. But: What can I specifically do as a Jew? Second, it was now my clear intention to work with an organization. For the first time. To work with the Zionists. They were the only ones who were ready. It would have been pointless to join those who had assimilated. Besides, I never really had anything to do with them. Even before this time I had concerned myself with the Jewish question. The book on Rahel Varnhagen was finished when I left Germany.  The problem of the Jews plays a role in it. I wrote it with the idea. "I want to understand." I wasn't discussing my personal problems as a Jew. But now, belonging to Judaism had become my own problem, and my own problem was political. Purely political! I wanted to go into practical work, exclusively and only Jewish work. With this in mind I then looked for work in France.

Gaus: Until 1940

Arendt: Yes.

Gaus: Then during the Second World War you went to the United States of America, where you are now a professor of political theory, not philosophy...

Arendt: Thank you.

Gaus: Chicago. You live in New York. Your husband, whom you married in 1941, is also a professor, of philosophy, in America. The academic community, of which you are again a member—after the disillusionment of I933---is international. Yet I should like to ask you whether you ntiss the Europe of the pre-Hitler period, which will never exist again. When you come to Europe, what, in your impression, re-mains and what is irretrievably lost?

Arendt: The Europe of the pre-Hitler period? I do not long for
that, I can tell you. What remains? The language remains.

Gaus: And that means a great deal to you?

Arendt: A great deal. I have always consciously refused to lose my mother tongue. I have always maintained a certain distance from French, which I then spoke very well, as well as from English, which I write today.

Gaus: I wanted to ask you that. You write in English now?

Arendt: I write in English, but I have never lost a feeling of distance from it. There is a tremendous difference between your mother tongue and another language. For myself I can put it extremely simply: In German I know a rather large part of German poetry by heart; the poems are always somehow in the back of my mind. I can never do that again. I do things in German that I would not permit myself to do in English. That is, sometimes I do them in English too, because I have
become bold, but in general I have maintained a certain distance. The German language is the essential thing that has remained and that I have always consciously preserved.

Gaus : Even in the most bitter time?

Arendt: Always. I thought to myself, What is one to do? It wasn't the German language that went crazy. And, second, there is no substitution for the mother tongue. People can forget their mother tongue. That's true — I have seen it. There are people who speak the new language better than I do. I still speak with a very heavy accent, and I often speak unidiomatically. They can all do these things correctly. But they do them in a language in which one cliche chases another because the
productivity that one has in one's own language is cut off when one forgets that language.

Gaus: The cases in which the mother tongue was forgotten: Is it your impression that this was the result of repression?

Arendt: Yes, very frequently. I have seen it in people as a result of shock. You know, what was decisive was not the year 1933, at least not for me. What was decisive was the day we learned about Auschwitz.

Gaus: When was that?

Arendt: That was in 1943. And at first we didn't believe it —although my husband and I always said that we expected anything from that bunch. But we didn't believe this because militarily it was unnecessary and uncalled for. My husband is a former military historian, he understands something about these matters. He said don't be gullible, don't take these stories at face value. They can't go that far! And then a half-year later we believed it after all, because we had the proof. That was the real shock. Before that we said: Well, one has enemies. That is entirely natural. Why shouldn't a people have enemies? But this was different. It was really as if an abyss had opened. Because we had the idea that amends could somehow be made for everything else, as amends can be made for just about everything at some point in politics. But not for this. This ought not to have happened. And I don't mean just the number of victims. I mean the method, the fabrication of corpses and so on — I don't need to go into that. This should not have happened. Something happened there to which we cannot reconcile ourselves. None of us ever can. About everything else that happened I have to say that it was sometimes rather difficult: we were very poor, we were hunted down, we had to flee, by hook or by crook we somehow had to get through, and whatever. That's how it was. But we were young. I even had a little fun with it — I can't deny it. But not this. This was something completely different. Personally I could accept everything else.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

-New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”... 
Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.
Since theorists dreamed up rational action it only makes sense that it could only be debunked when researchers "discovered" it was bullshit.

Our legal system is founded on the formalization of "myside bias". History is the history of actions mostly founded on delusion; literature is the intimate description of failure. But scientists, or those who claim to be, don't read either, because art is subjective and history is bunk.

The New Republic: In Defense of Cultural Criticism in Trump’s America
-Why the arts need a space the state can't touch—and how we get there.

Call it progress: "We succumb to binaristic thinking"
When scholars read literature of the early imperial era of Rome—Lucan, in her example—they almost always make a big mistake. They rush to identify the author’s attitude toward the new emperor on the scene, “as though when Tiberius came into power the Roman elite woke up and were like, ‘Oh fuck, this is DIFFERENT and this is all we can think about now.’” But in fact, Romans saw the régimes of Tiberius and Nero not as sea changes but rather as “grotesque” exaggerations of “features that were long baked into Roman politics and culture.”

Approaching Lucan in this narrow way would be akin to 31st-century scholars poring over the novels of, say, Jonathan Franzen to discover whether he thought Donald Trump was good or bad, instead of absorbing his depiction of the features of American politics and culture in the early 21st century on its own terms. Binaristic readings of Lucan—was he appeasing the emperor or subverting his rule?—blot out vast swaths of meaning. They also totally fail to see that Lucan’s political epics “work as spaces to reconfigure agency and the political (or philosophical) self,” as Regler put it. In simpler terms: “It’s not always about Nero.”
It's hard for me to imagine classicists being as unthinking and intellectually flat as the author describes. It reads like 9th grade, but parts aren't bad.
Art is about creating those spaces evident in Lucan’s epics. It’s as if a zone is staked out for a variety of ideas and postures to flex and interact. This zone is the place where the arts play. It is not an apolitical place, it is just not owned by government. In this aesthetic space, the arts explore a less confined politics than the one that controls the state. The state is not the beginning, end, or the reason for this space.
That's better than Graber and Tushnet, but it's unclear if she understands that free speech means free speech for Nazis. She refers to Ranciere and dissensus [etc], forgetting or ignoring that "disruption" is now the language of Uber, as others with the opposite form of selective memory forget that it was once a ubiquitous Modernist trope. Ranciere is still a Modernist.
Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords. 
The two pieces above set me off. I'm not sure why I'm picking on the author at the New Republic. PhD or not, she's a kid. Dan Sperber is an adult, or he's supposed to be. The link in the paragraph above is good for him too. He's a man who claims the authority of a philosopher or judge, and lawyers laugh at judges behind their backs.

The authors of another book discussed in the New Yorker piece have an op-ed in the Times.
The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach.

Why We Believe Obvious Untruths
Recently, for example, there was a vociferous outcry when President Trump and Congress rolled back regulations on the dumping of mining waste in waterways. This may be bad policy, but most people don’t have sufficient expertise to draw that conclusion because evaluating the policy is complicated. Environmental policy is about balancing costs and benefits. In this case, you need to know something about what mining waste does to waterways and in what quantities these effects occur, how much economic activity depends on being able to dump freely, how a decrease in mining activity would be made up for from other energy sources and how environmentally damaging those are, and on and on.

We suspect that most of those people expressing outrage lacked the detailed knowledge necessary to assess the policy. We also suspect that many in Congress who voted for the rollback were equally in the dark. But people seemed pretty confident.
The authors' bias is clear, but rather than epistocracy it's more the old argument for "a vital center", Arthur Schlesinger's managed mediocrity, adding only that Fernbach is a professor of marketing at a business school.
I may have linked to this before. I don't remember.

We're returning to the notion that knowledge is collective, not that the collective needs to be imposed on us but that it's constitutive of what we are. But the arguments are still anti-political, still trying to rise above politics rather than engage it. Jason Brennan is merely more explicit.  And the author at the New Republic is still more interested in theory than culture itself, as practice.

If knowledge is collective then politics is central, and the model is not Plato or Mill and Bentham and Weber but everything Plato opposed. Politics is an art.

I've quoted parts of what's below a dozen times by now but left out important parts, on this page if not elsewhere. He's writing in the late 30s. So much has been lost.
Nine days before his death Immanuel Kant was visited by his physician. Old, ill and nearly blind, he rose from his chair and stood trembling with weakness and muttering unintelligible words. Finally his faithful companion realized that he would not sit down again until the visitor had taken a seat. This he did, and Kant then permitted himself to be helped to his chair and, after having regained some of his strength, said, ‘Das Gefühl für Humanität hat mich noch nicht verlassen’—’The sense of humanity has not yet left me’. The two men were moved almost to tears. For, though the word Humanität had come, in the eighteenth century, to mean little more than politeness and civility, it had, for Kant, a much deeper significance, which the circumstances of the moment served to emphasize: man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that implied in the word ‘mortality.’

Historically the word humanitas has had two clearly distinguishable meanings, the first arising from a contrast between man and what is less than man; the second between man and what is more. In the first case humanitas means a value, in the second a limitation.

The concept of humanitas as a value was formulated in the circle around the younger Scipio, with Cicero as its belated, yet most explicit spokesman. It meant the quality which distinguishes man, not only from animals, but also, and even more so, from him who belongs to the species homo without deserving the name of homo humanus; from the barbarian or vulgarian who lacks pietas and παιδεια- that is, respect for moral values and that gracious blend of learning and urbanity which we can only circumscribe by the discredited word "culture."

In the Middle Ages this concept was displaced by the consideration of humanity as being opposed to divinity rather than to animality or barbarism. The qualities commonly associated with it were therefore those of frailty and transience: humanitas fragilis, humanitas caduca.

Thus the Renaissance conception of humanitas had a two-fold aspect from the outset. The new interest in the human being was based both on a revival of the classical antithesis between humanitas and barbartias, or feritas, and on a survival of the mediaeval antithesis between humanitas and divinitas. When Marsilio Ficino defines man as a “rational soul participating in the intellect of God, but operating in a body,” he defines him as the one being that is both autonomous and finite. And Pico’s famous ‘speech’ ‘On the Dignity of Man’ is anything but a document of paganism. Pico says that God placed man in the center of the universe so that he might be conscious of where he stands, and therefore free to decide ‘where to turn.’ He does not say that man is the center of the universe, not even in the sense commonly attributed to the classical phrase, “man the measure of all things.”

It is from this ambivalent conception of humanitas that humanism was born. It is not so much a movement as an attitude which can be defined as the conviction of the dignity of man, based on both the insistence on human values (rationality and freedom) and the acceptance of human limitations (fallibility and frailty); from this two postulates result responsibility and tolerance.

Small wonder that this attitude has been attacked frorn two opposite camps whose common aversion to the ideas of responsibility and tolerance has recently aligned them in a united front. Entrenched in one of these camps are those who deny human values: the determinists, whether they believe in divine, physical or social predestination, the authoritarians, and those "insectolatrists" who profess the all-importance of the hive, whether the hive be called group, class, nation or race. In the other camp are those who deny human limitations in favor of some sort of intellectual or political libertinism, such as aestheticists, vitalists, intuitionists and hero-worshipers. From the point of view of determinism, the humanist is either a lost soul or an ideologist. From the point of view of authoritarianism, he is either a heretic or a revolutionary (or a counterrevolutionary). From the point of view of "insectolatry," he is a useless individualist. And from the point of view of libertinism he is a timid bourgeois.

Erasmus of Rotterdam, the humanist par excellence, is a typical case in point. The church suspected and ultimately rejected the writings of this man who had said: "Perhaps the spirit of Christ is more largely diffused than we think, and there are many in the community of saints who are not in our calendar." The adventurer Uhich von Hutten despised his ironical skepticism and his unheroic love of tranquillity. And Luther, who insisted that "no man has power to think anything good or evil, but everything occurs in him by absolute necessity," was incensed by a belief which manifested itself in the famous phrase; "What is the use of man as a totality [that is, of man endowed with both a body and a soul], if God would work in him as a sculptor works in clay, and might just as well work in stone?"

The humanist, then, rejects authority. But he respects tradition. Not only does he respect it, he looks upon, it as upon something real and objective which has to be studied and, if necessary, reinstated: "nos vetera instauramus, nova non prodimus" as Erasmus puts it. ["we are reviving the old, without betraying the new."]

The Middle Ages accepted and developed rather than studied and restored the heritage of the past. They copied classical works of art and used Aristotle aaad Ovid much as they copied and used the works of contemporaries. They made no attempt to interpret them from an archaeological, philological or "critical" in short, from an historical, point of view. For, if human existence could be thought of as a means rather than an end, how much less could the records of human activity be considered as values in themselves.

In mediaeval scholasticism there is, therefore, no basic distinction between natural science and what we call the humanities, studia humaniora, to quote again an Erasmian phrase. The practice of both, so far as it was carried on at all, remained within the framework of what was called philosophy. From the humanistic point of view, however, it became reasonable, and even inevitable, to distinguish, within the realm of creation, between the sphere of nature and the sphere of culture, and to define the former with reference to the latter. ie., nature as the whole world accessible to the senses, except for the records left by man.

Man is indeed the only animal to leave records behind him, for he is the only animal whose products "recall to mind" an idea distinct from their material existence. Other animals use signs and contrive structures, but they use signs without "perceiving the relation of signification,  and they contrive structures without perceiving the relation of construction.

To perceive the relation of signification is to separate the idea of the concept to be expressed from the means of expression. And to perceive the relation of construction is to separate the idea of the function to be fulfilled from the means of fulfilling it. A dog announces the approach of a stranger by a bark quite different from that by which he makes known his wish to go out. But he will not use this particular bark to convey the idea that a stranger has called during the absence of his master. Much less will an animal, even if it were physically able to do so, as apes indubitably are, ever attempt to represent anything in a picture. Beavers build dams. But they are unable, so far as we know, to separate the very complicated actions involved from a premeditated plan which might be laid down in a drawing instead of being materialized in logs and stones.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Mehdi Hasan tweets Shadi Hamid.
Hamid's piece is contradictory, as if it had been rewritten and someone forgot to remove a paragraph.
As Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum has argued, the very fact that the race had become so charged was “ridiculous,” since Perez and Ellison are “about equally progressive.” Or as his colleague David Corn wrote: “There’s truly not much ideological distance between the two. They are both grassroots-minded progressives.” 
Perez, whatever his positions, was encouraged to run against Ellison by the Obama White House, with Obama’s top aide Valerie Jarrett whipping votes and telling Democratic National Committee members “I’ll let the president know you’re with Tom.” This happened after [accent in original] Ellison had already established himself as the early front-runner, with strong union support and the endorsement of figures like Senator Chuck Schumer. The left flank was looking for evidence that it would be fully accepted and incorporated in a party that was known for neutralizing and ignoring its base. Instead, the Democratic “establishment”—is there anyone more establishment than the president?—worked to undermine the candidate of the party’s left.

After Hillary Clinton’s election defeat, liberal commentators have, by and large, done what makes the most sense for a center-left technocratic party: sought refuge in facts and empirical reality (against someone who clearly values neither). Facts are obviously good and necessary, but they don’t make a strategy. Moreover, focusing on empirical data creates incentives to downplay the role of emotion and feeling in politics. These are, after all, the things that are difficult to measure and fall out outside the scope of “rational” action.

The race for DNC chair took place after eight years, under Obama’s presidency, in which Democrats were decimated on the local and state levels and lost the presidency to arguably the most unqualified presidential candidate in the history of the nation. If you looked hard enough, of course, you could probably find a way to argue that Barack Obama’s ideas or even his style of governing had absolutely nothing to do with the sorry state of the Democratic Party. As Matthew Yglesias of Vox put it rather succinctly: “It’s structural.” You could similarly make an argument that there was simply no lesson to learn from Clinton’s defeat. After all, she “outperformed the econometric models.”

...Keith Ellison may be about as progressive as Tom Perez, but it’s what he represents that matters. It’s what he evokes and inspires, for both better and worse, and that’s not something you can quantify in a chart or plot on a graph. It’s definitely not something you can measure, and you shouldn’t have to.
Zaid Jilani
Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.

...Haim Saban, the entertainment tycoon who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors, called Ellison both “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League called on Democrats to reject him. On the eve of the vote, prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that he would leave the party if Ellison were elected chair; Jack Rosen, who leads the American Jewish Congress, emailed DNC members the day before the vote decrying Ellison’s views on the Middle East, concluding that he threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Perez, on the other hand, courted pro-Israel activists during the course of the contest.
Hasan is the UK equivalent of Jamelle Bouie and the other buppie neoliberals who backed Clinton. Hamid is an idiot. It's interesting that they would follow that logic to the point of being -perhaps in Hamid's case, struggling to be- oblivious to the reasons for the late entrance of Perez.
New tags for Brexit and Trump

Sunday, February 26, 2017

More absurdity, confusion. See Pistorius, and Dolezal
High school athlete Mack Beggs, a teenager who is transitioning from female to male, won his 110-pound weight class in the Texas girl's state championship on Saturday, according to media reports.

Beggs, 17, and many of his opponents want him to wrestle against boys, but the transgender boy wrestled in the Texas championship for girls because of state sport regulations, which require athletes to compete according to birth gender.

The wrestler, a junior at Trinity High School in the Dallas suburb of Euless, had a 52-0 record ahead of the weekend tournament and was favored to win the 110-pound weight class in the championship.

On Saturday, he beat Chelsea Sanchez 12-2 to earn the championship.

In some of his first media comments since the story was widely reported, Beggs said "I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for my teammates," the Dallas Morning News reported on its website.

"That's honestly what the spotlight should've been on, my teammates," he added.

Beggs' family has sought to have him wrestle as a boy, and some of his opponents have said he has an unfair advantage among girls because of the testosterone he is taking as a part of his transition.

The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, said that the state's education code allows the use of a banned drug such as steroids if it "is prescribed by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose."

About a week ago, Beggs won a regional championship after a female wrestler from a Dallas-area high school forfeited the final.

The parent of another girl who wrestles for the same Dallas-area high school had filed a lawsuit trying to block Beggs, saying his use of testosterone increases his strength, which could pose a risk to opponents.

Nancy Beggs, Mack Beggs' grandmother and guardian, told the Dallas Morning News after the forfeit in the regional championship match: "Today was not about their students winning. Today was about bias, hatred and ignorance."

According to, which provides information for transgender athletes, Texas is one of seven U.S. states with policies it sees as discriminatory against transgender athletes.

Lou Weaver, who runs transgender programs for the LGBT rights group Equality Texas, said Beggs is abiding by current state rules, which need to be updated, "so that guys like Mack can wrestle with their peers, which would be on the boys' team."

Monday, February 20, 2017

in re: Milo

The film has scenes with boys in Morocco. The scenes are bucolic the implications are obvious. No one complained at the time. The film was written by Alan Bennett and it's based on Lahr's Biography, which is explicit. And of course the diaries, which Lahr later edited.
We were hailed with 'Hallo' from a very beautiful 16 year old boy whom I knew but had never had) from lest year. Kenneth wanted him. We talked for about five minutes and finally I said. 'Come to our apartment for tea this afternoon.' He was very eager. We arranged that he should meet us at the Windmill beach place. As we left the boy Kenneth said, Wasn't I good at arranging things?' This astounded me. 'I arranged it; I said You would have been standing talking about the weather for ever.' K didn't reply... (9 May 1967)
Milo is a self-hating homosexual and political reactionary in a long line of self-hating homosexuals and political reactionaries, and also a long line of comedians. His is a form of reactionary honesty, in the face of a bourgeois moralism and hypocrisy. It's the reactionary honesty of de Sade and Houellebecq, of Rock and Roll and High Fashion, the ghosts of monarchist freedom and libertines that earnest liberals celebrate without knowing what they're celebrating. And that cluelessness applies to academia as well.  If I say that Foucault obviously was an arch conservative from an arch conservative tradition, the response is confusion.

A girl I knew in 9th grade had an affair with our English teacher. She pretty much destroyed him.
Another English teacher at the school married one of his ex-students, the year after she graduated from Yale.

The couples below are Verlaine and Rimbaud, and Isherwood and Bachardy. The image on the right is annoyingly perverse, to me at least. The older one isn't.

I searched the blog for a reference and found this, which wasn't what I was looking for but it made me laugh. Looking elsewhere I still didn't find what I was looking for but found this.
“Germany cannot be what she used to be, because there are not enough Jewish people. My mother always said there was some sparkle only the Jewish culture could bring. Germany without Jews is a boring, materialistic country.”
I should add a tag for fashion.

update, appropriately enough, from Artnet:
The ‘Twinks4Trump’ Guy, Who Organized a Pro-Trump Art Show, Is Now a White House Correspondent.
"His initial claim to fame was a photo series showing shirtless young men in "Make America Great Again" baseball hats."
See also Richard Spencer and Caravaggio.

repeats: The relation of art and fascism.

There could be no more poignant contrast to this confidence in the spells of art [in the perceptual "objectivity" of hieroglyphs] than a passage from Plato's older contemporary Euripides that also deals with tomb sculpture. When Alcestis is going to die, her grieving husband Admetus speaks of the work he will commission for his solace:

And represented by the skillfull hands
Of craftsmen, on the bed thy body shall
Be laid; whereon I shall fall in embrace
And clasp my hands around it, call thy name,
And fancy in my arms my darling wife
To hold, holding her not; perhaps, I grant,
Illusory delight, yet my soul's burden
Thus shall I lighten...

What Ademtus seeks is not a spell, not even assurance, only a dream for those who are awake; in other words, precisely that state of mind to which Plato, the stern seeker after truth, objected.
Plato, we know, looked back with nostalgia at the immobile schemata of Egyptian art.

Gombrich, Art and Illusion, p.126
"I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist."

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

Thursday, February 16, 2017



All politics is schoolyard politics

"Serious" liberals, library kids, and earnest or soi-disant radicals don't understand the schoolyard, even when their enemies, the bullies, are being laughed at by the peasants, the unwashed bourgeois masses, the mediocre majority. The elite and vanguard are scratching their heads in confusion.

Laurence Tribe, before today's debacle: "How Trump uses sleight-of-hand to dazzle, dodge, and distract"

Sam Husseini, after: "There's a deranged symbiotic relationship between Trump and the (rest) of the (media) establishment."

2/17. Jason Stanley recommended this absurdity:  Analysis: Trump is a master of language

Ari Melber: "The independent press are referees. The action is always on the field. Donald Trump wants to make the whole season about the refs."

There are no refs. Journalists are advocates, ambulance chasers. It's a vulgar job and needs to be. I repeat it all too much.

Meanwhile back on the ground...
Reuters: "'I'm not ranting and raving.' Trump on defensive in first solo news conference"

Politico: Trump decided Thurs AM to do press conference, told aides he wanted to speak unfiltered, seize back narrative
After stewing in anger during four rocky weeks in the White House, President Donald Trump had his say Thursday.

He spent 80 minutes in an impromptu East Room news conference shredding his critics, relitigating the election, bragging about his crowds, crowing about his accomplishments and denying, deflecting and obfuscating a series of mushrooming bad stories that have dogged his presidency and depressed his approval ratings.

It was an extraordinary scene in the White House, which Trump essentially turned into a venue for a campaign rally, trashed the country's most influential news outlets, cited approval polls and spread misinformation. It came two days before Trump will hit the road for a campaign rally in Florida, where he said the crowds would be "massive."
Jeremy Scahill takes his ball and goes home: "Why I will not appear this week on Real Time with Bill Maher." He's been on the show before and defends Maher, but somehow this time it's about his own integrity and not the opportunity to tear Milo Yiannopoulos a new one. Integrity, cowardice, "moral grandstanding"?  Scahill has the luxury of walking away.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In the end it all dovetails, everything I've watched for 40 years: curdled idealism and mannerist fragility, engineers' anti-humanism, academic theorizing, the celebration of autistic reason, preadolescent sexuality in adolescence and adulthood, from Weininger to Scott Aaronson

"People say that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all."

The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself.
We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum.

Living in a silent film...

The explicitly left slides into the explicitly right. A hundred years ago they understood.
"...he told me that even if he were to give me an answer, I would not understand it."

Fascism is a symptom and a sensibility. Vanguardism is romantic pedantry in modernity.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been in contact via intermediaries with Curtis Yarvin, Politico Magazine reported this week. Yarvin, a software engineer and blogger, writes under the name Mencius Moldbug. His anti-egalitarian arguments have formed the basis for a movement called “neoreaction.”

The main thrust of Yarvin’s thinking is that democracy is a bust; rule by the people doesn’t work, and doesn’t lead to good governance. He has described it as an “ineffective and destructive” form of government, which he associates with “war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.” Yarvin’s ideas, along with those of the English philosopher Nick Land, have provided a structure of political theory for parts of the white-nationalist movement calling itself the alt-right. The alt-right can be seen as a political movement; neoreaction, which adherents refer to as NRx, is a philosophy. At the core of that philosophy is a rejection of democracy and an embrace of autocratic rule.
The first weeks of the Trump presidency have brought as much focus on the White House’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as on the new president himself. But if Bannon has been the driving force behind the frenzy of activity in the White House, less attention has been paid to the network of political philosophers who have shaped his thinking and who now enjoy a direct line to the White House.

They are not mainstream thinkers, but their writings help to explain the commotion that has defined the Trump administration’s early days. They include a Lebanese-American author known for his theories about hard-to-predict events; an obscure Silicon Valley computer scientist whose online political tracts herald a “Dark Enlightenment”; and a former Wall Street executive who urged Donald Trump’s election in anonymous manifestos by likening the trajectory of the country to that of a hijacked airplane—and who now works for the National Security Council.

Bannon, described by one associate as “the most well-read person in Washington,” is known for recommending books to colleagues and friends, according to multiple people who have worked alongside him. He is a voracious reader who devours works of history and political theory “in like an hour,” said a former associate whom Bannon urged to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. “He’s like the Rain Man of nationalism.”
Land was our Nietzsche – with the same baiting of the so-called progressive tendencies, the same bizarre mixture of the reactionary and the futuristic, and a writing style that updates nineteenth century aphorisms into what Kodwo Eshun called “text at sample velocity.” Speed— in the abstract and the chemical sense— was crucial here: telegraphic tech-punk provocations replacing the conspicuous cogitation of so much post-structuralist continentalism, with its implication that the more laborious and agonised the writing, the more thought must be going on.

Whatever the merits of Land’s other theoretical provocations (and I’ll suggest some serious problems with them presently), Land’s withering assaults on the academic left - or the embourgeoisified state-subsidised grumbling that so often calls itself academic Marxism – remain trenchant. The unwritten rule of these “careerist sandbaggers” is that no one seriously expects any renunciation of bourgeois subjectivity to ever happen. Pass the Merlot, I’ve got a career’s worth of quibbling critique to get through. So we see a ruthless protection of petit bourgeois interests dressed up as politics. Papers about antagonism, then all off to the pub afterwards. Instead of this, Land took earnestly—to the point of psychosis and auto-induced schizophrenia—the Spinozist-Nietzschean-Marxist injunction that a theory should not be taken seriously if it remains at the level of representation.

What, then, is Land’s philosophy about?

In a nutshell: Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic desire remorselessly stripped of all Bergsonian vitalism, and made backwards-compatiblewith Freud’s death drive and Schopenhauer’s Will. The Hegelian-Marxist motor of history is then transplanted into this pulsional nihilism: the idiotic autonomic Will no longer circulating idiotically on the spot, but upgraded into a drive, and guided by a quasi-teleological artificial intelligence attractor that draws terrestrial history over a series of intensive thresholds that have no eschatological point of consummation, and that reach empirical termination only contingently if and when its material substrate burns out. This is Hegelian-Marxist historical materialism inverted: Capital will not be ultimately unmasked as exploited labour power; rather, humans are the meat puppet of Capital, their identities and self-understandings are simulations that can and will be ultimately be sloughed off.
This summer, I seriously considered withdrawing from any involvement in politics. Exhausted through overwork, incapable of productive activity, I found myself drifting through social networks, feeling my depression and exhaustion increasing.

‘Left-wing’ Twitter can often be a miserable, dispiriting zone. Earlier this year, there were some high-profile twitterstorms, in which particular left-identifying figures were ‘called out’ and condemned. What these figures had said was sometimes objectionable; but nevertheless, the way in which they were personally vilified and hounded left a horrible residue: the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism. The reason I didn’t speak out on any of these incidents, I’m ashamed to say, was fear. The bullies were in another part of the playground. I didn’t want to attract their attention to me.
Last week the writer Mark Fisher took his own life. His on/off struggle with depression was something he wrote about with courageous candour in articles and in his landmark book Capitalist Realism: is There No Alternative? Fisher argued that the pandemic of mental anguish that afflicts our time cannot be properly understood, or healed, if viewed as a private problem suffered by damaged individuals. Rather, it was the symptom of a heartless and hopeless politics: precarious employment and flexible work patterns, the erosion of class solidarity and its institutions such as unions, and the relentless message from mainstream political parties and media alike that “there is no alternative” to managerial capitalism. That this is as good as it gets – so deal with it.

Finally the depression that Fisher, 48, had dissected acutely and fought against doggedly got the better of him. He left behind a wife and young son, a close-knit network of friends, allies, colleagues and students, and an ever-widening readership, all of whom were waiting always to hear what he had to say next.
Mark Fisher memorial fund launched in wake of music writer’s death 
The collection has been set up to raise money for Mark’s wife, Zoë and his young son, George.

A memorial fund for Mark Fisher, the influential music writer and theorist who died last Friday (January 13), has been launched by a group of his colleagues, comrades and friends.

Fisher, who contributed regularly to FACT in the magazine’s early years, used his K-Punk blog as a platform for examining mainstream and underground music from a cultural theorist’s perspective. In 2009, he published Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, on Zero books was also a founder member of Warwick University’s Cybernetic Culture Research Unit.

The collection has been set up to raise money for Mark’s wife, Zoë and his young son, George, “in the hope that it will allow them space to grieve and come to terms with their loss, and reduce the number of things they have to deal with at this devastating time.”

You can donate to the memorial fund via YouCaring.

Musicians, writers, theorists and colleagues have been paying tribute in the days since his death, with Fisher’s friend and comrade Simon Reynolds describing him as “a cult figure,” and “the most original and provocative writer about popular culture – and its interface with the political – of the last fifteen years.”

Owen Hatherley, whose book – Militant Modernism – came out on Zero Books in 2009, recalled his “last happy memory” of Fisher at a Zero Books event in Zagreb around five years ago, while music writer David Stubbs, writing for The Quietus, called Fisher’s Capitalist Realism “his most vital text,” and “among the most vital political texts of the 21st century.”

Music writer Adam Harper, whose blog Rouge’s Foam was inspired by K-Punk, recalled the first time he met Fisher in 2010, writing: “Mark isn’t just the figure behind every significant thing I’ve done as a critic. His theory is now deeply embedded in who I am and what I say.”

Verso author Juliet Jacques called Fisher “a rare example of a popular British academic,” on the Verso blog, urging readers to return to Mark’s work.

Read next: Mark Fisher on The Pop Group’s enduring radicalism
A wasted life dedicated to an illusion, and a final selfish act abandoning a wife and child. A life lived in a bubble, the present tense, his own experience, repeating others' mistakes, out of "fandom".