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to present this material can seem to be the result of having gone looking for proofs naturalising a Jewish – or Zionist – anti-democratic and anti-liberal proclivity – particularly if one is to extrapolate to the dominance of neoliberalism by “social and economic categories” – and subtract the centrality of the Shoah from historical understanding as itself historically emerging and contingent – but here we can see Deleuze’s definition of the event as emergence or emergency from an anumeric mutliplicity of potentials

democracy was a catastrophe for Jews, who thrived in liberal autocracies: notably in the window that opened up between the eighteenth-century Austrian Empire under Joseph II and its curious apotheosis in the long reign of Emperor Franz Joseph II, from 1848 to 1916, an era of ongoing political constraint but cultural and economic liberation. Mass society posed new and dangerous challenges: not only were Jews now a serviceable political target, but they were losing the increasingly ineffectual protection of the royal or imperial figurehead. In order to survive this turbulent transition, European Jews had either to disappear altogether or else change the rules of the political game.

Hence the emerging Jewish proclivity, in the early decades of the twentieth century, for non-democrativ forms of radical change with an accompanying insistence upon the irrelevance of religion, language or ethnicity and a primacy attached to social and economic categories in their place; hence too the much-remarked presence of Jews in the first generation of left-wing authoritarian regimes that emerged from the revolutionary upheavals of the age. Looking forward from 1918, or back from the present day, this seems to me perfectly comprehensible: short of an active commitment to Zionism or else departure for other continents, the only hope for the Jews of Europe was either perpetuation of the imperial status quo or else radical, transformative opposition to the nation-states that succeeded it.

– Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century, Vintage, London, 2013, pp. 19-20

we cannot, if we wish to give a fair account of the recent past, read back into it our own ethical or communitarian priorities. The harsh reality is that Jews, Jewish suffering and Jewish extermination were not matters of overwhelming concern to most Europeans (Jews and Nazis aside) of that time. The centrality we now assign the Holocaust, both as Jews and as humanitarians, is something that only emerged decades later.

– Ibid., p. 22

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“Does this not promise a safer world, protected not only from bad actors attempting to do dangerous things, but from bad actors developing dangerous thoughts?”

I link to George Dyson

on NSA’s

“spectacular intelligence”

via Alan Turing

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capital: essential listening

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another time, perhaps

What is consciousness but language? asks Gilles Deleuze, in a work concerned with another question, What is language?

Language is a sign-signal system, according to Deleuze, which wouldn’t mean very much until we remember that signs are assemblages. They are independent networks of disparate entities, which work under the sign of being and being elements. Signs are constructed. The work that they do is signalling.

Signs signal in series. But does language have this sense of continuity and flow, of ceaseless series, sign-signal to sign-signal, because the passage from sign to signal occurs within time, in the present, or is it language which precedes this sense of time?

The problem I am adducing to is the following:

The mephistophelian character, Andreas Corelli, in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s very enjoyable book, The Angel’s Game, has this to say about what fables teach us:

They teach us that human beings learn and absorb ideas and concepts through narrative, through stories, not through lessons or theoretical speeches. This is what any of the great religious texts teach us. They’re all tales about characters who must confront life and overcome obstacles, figures setting off on a journey of spiritual enrichment through exploits and revelations. All holy books are, above all, great stories whose plots deal with the basic aspects of human nature, setting them within a particular moral context and a particular framework of supernatural dogmas.

Zafón, Carlos Ruiz, The Angel’s Game, trans. Lucia Graves, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2009, p. 192

Stories give the natural impression of passing from one thing to the next. They make it appear natural for God to have created mud and from mud formed Eve and her sister. Narration naturalises what fables do, which is fabulate. But isn’t the most fabulous idea that human beings have absorbed through stories the concept on which narrative and language itself relies, rests and lies: time? And isn’t consciousness part of the fabric of this story, this history?

What happens if the link is broken between sign and signal? What happens where there is no next or and then? where the link, the nature of which was always a fabrication, is denaturalised?

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Cultural Colonisation: Dilemma of the small nation – part of a substantial archive of similar material. The question: Is it worth digging up a horse that has been flogged to death just to flog it again? You tell me. I await your response with interest.

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empathetic machinism – to soft_skinned_space

Antonio Damasio (Looking for Spinoza) shows, to simplify, the material neuronal causes of such feelings as empathy in the brain. Catherine Malabou goes further. She invents in The New Wounded, self-consciously, the philosophical concept of “cerebrality” to provide an aetiology for psychic events. She cites the argument of Bruno Bettelheim implying a shared causality of psychological symptoms in autists and mussulmen – the 1000 yard stare and – the indifference.

From Malabou’s preamble: “this book is a belated reaction to the ordeal of depersonalisation to which my grandmother was subjected as Alzheimer’s disease operated upon her. I say “operated” because it seemed to me that my grandmother, or, at least, the new and ultimate version of her, was the work of the disease, its opus, its own sculpture. Indeed, this was not a diminished person in front of me, the same woman weaker than she used to be, lessened, spoiled. No, this was a stranger who didn’t recognise me, who didn’t recognise herself because she had undoubtedly never met her before.”

And: “I was perfectly aware – along with everyone who must endure the same spectacle in their own lives – that this absence, this disaffection, this strangeness to oneself were, without any possible doubt, the paradoxical signs of profound pain. Later, I learned that Alzheimer’s disease is a cerebral pathology. Could it be that the brain suffers? Could it be that this suffering manifests itself in the form of indifference to suffering? In the form of the inability to experience suffering as one’s own? Could it be that there is a type of suffering that creates a new identity, the unknown identity of an unknown person who suffers? Could it be that cerebral suffering is precisely such suffering?”

I’d like to ask the opposite: if it could be that an as yet for us unknown person, an identity in the process of creation, can be equal to cerebral suffering, in the sense in which Deleuze issues the Stoic challenge of being equal to the wound which afflicts us? or in other words, acting?

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a letter to empyre soft_skinned_space on the subject of screens added here for interest even if leaving much unsaid

My father went to the cinema every Saturday where he saw the newsreels showing the liberation of the camps. The two things were always linked in his reminiscence:  the joy of the screen and its stars and ‘having to see’ what ‘had to be seen.’ ‘Had to be’ because the postlogue usually went, You didn’t, did you? to my mother, as if she’d been both deprived enjoyment and spared knowledge.

No. She hadn’t seen – and therefore didn’t ‘know’ – since her parents wouldn’t let her go to the cinema. It wasn’t until she had boyfriends who would take her that she went to movies by which time the newsreels had given way to shorts, even cartoons, before the main feature.

My father was prepared you might say by this double exposure to the screen for a life in the theatre. But his unpublished novels have a cinematic quality.

The theatre seriously in the 1970s took up the problem or crisis of representation associated with Adorno’s name as with Celan’s. The fact theatre was not by then a popular medium but on its way to being museumised made it a place where it was sometimes possible to ask difficult questions. Sometimes, that is, when its practitioners were not already in complicity with the rising economic rationale.

Cinema seems to have come late to such a tragic recognition of the limits of representation at which complicity becomes general, for example in Michael Haneke’s Caché. A different complicity than that by which artists would join forces with capitalism. But equal, in so far as there is a lessening of the power to choose. However, in the case of seeing newsreels of the liberation of Auschwitz it is involuntary, and not thereafter innocent, and in the case of accepting the inevitability of the economic rationalisation of every facet of life and society, it is voluntary, and therefore not innocent.

Compulsory viewing was a moral category and the screen had the physical authority to insist that its viewers not turn their heads away. Its resources possibly exhausted, long since having reached peak Plato, still it is worthwhile in this regard recalling the cave. In its darkness men, women, children are captivated by the shadows projected on the cave wall of a procession of real objects and events. Held captive, they can neither turn away nor see over the barrier below which reality parades, firelight behind it casting its image as the only visible reality. Except for the philosopher who breaks out.

First he sees the whole theatrical or cinematographic set-up, the cave, the bound men, women, children, the barrier, the firelight and the actual things and events in motion before it. But this epiphany is insufficient for him to free the others. So he exits the cave. And finds out where everything has come from, which so far only firelight has set flickering in shadows up the cave wall, which so far has appeared only in insubstantial series. This is not yet enough to make him a hero rescuer, a freedom fighter and go back; he returns but is somehow trapped in his knowledge and lessened by it.

He chooses another medium, in other words, prepared by this double exposure to the screen. Nevertheless, his dialogues have this quality of theatrical or cinematic presentation.

Compulsory viewing is now an aesthetic contribution. Seeing Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is compulsory. Nobody wants to (be seen to) force anybody to see anything real even if (unseen) they try it on: the double articulation of sharism and advertising leads to a voluntary screenism. Which, being voluntary, is not innocent.

A general break is advocated for sometimes militated for from being held captive to totalitarian modernity. The spectacle, that is, of politics.

The multiplication of screens has passed a critical threshold but not one of ubiquity, rather a ubiquitous or immanent atomic threshold. Since this multiplication has proceeded in two directions: miniaturisation and universal mobility.

Screens have sunk into the skin of our modernity. Our post-atomic modernity. And behind this skin, a light. Plath’s lampshade or a general state of illumination behind the realm of husks and shells, Qlipphoth. But also within the space of this skin – perforations.

A general screenism perforates reality which porosity acts as a filter stretched across the world, described by Leibniz. And where these mediatic pores combine screens with cameras the sum effect of universal visibility is in fact invisibility. A general and generalisable status quo.

It is no coincidence that schools do not bar pupils from watching they attempt to ban touching. [ref] Screens touch. They ‘bump.’ A euphemism for fucking.

Screens are in the process of becoming skins. Whether by transplant, substitution or extension into new powers of affecting and being affected is a good question. 

I look forward to the tactility of screens, the new haptic qualities, where research continues, beyond the general atomism of the screen and its presentation of modernity, post-screen… [link]

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B U S I N E S S M U S T B E P R O P I T I A T E D

Mark Fisher of k-punk on SOCIAL IMAGINATION amongst other essential things, like the intensification of neoliberalism in extremis

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little objects of self-love

Alex Monea’s paper “Guattari’s on Facebook?! Affects, Refrains and the Digital Cloud” [here & here] made me think what perhaps I have not been thinking because I’ve been doing. It made me think about the possibility for thinking about what I have been doing. Whether I can. Or whether in fact I need to complete the doing, to have done – with it – before I am in a position to engage in critique. Because I do think it is a question of critique. A critique that goes so far as creation:

  1. what’s wrong that I feel I have to say something? – and think?
  2. where does it come from? the problem?
  3. what new way to go about it is there? to deal with the problem, with what was wrong in the first place?

The problem was always to do with what had been done, what had been done so that the solution looked the way it did, did the things it did, and still does, to the people connected to it, to whoever and whatever it encounters. It damns my eyes, for example. It is reductive, reducing people to marketable microsegmentations: microsensations come to substitute for and eventually replace affects.

The problem was always therefore to do with a way of thinking that could give rise to what Alex Monea calls the digital cloud, but which is really the network – in part; it is also actually the graph. Their effects. The management of their effects. The cynical sometimes, sometimes unwitting manipulation of those effects for personal gain, where personal also naturally includes the psychopathology of corporations, or corpocracy.

Who thought it? Cyberneticists thought it. And ecologists thought it. (See Adam Curtis’s beautifully suggestive three-parter All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace where some of these lines are teased out.) But equally and coincidentally it was being thought by mathematicians and complexity theorists: it was a thought presiding over the birth of the internet in the ARPANET in all its duality: where individuals from diverse – how diverse will become clear when I list the names – backgrounds and disciplines, spheres, were inducted into the military-technological complex – into little rooms therein – to experience the joys of communication mediated by computation, by communicating computational machines:

  1. 1975 – Marcel Broodthaers, Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan & Edward Said;
  2. 1976 – Samir Amin, Steve Biko, Francis Fukuyama & Minoru Yamasaki;
  3. 1976 – Joseph Beuys, Juan Downey, Rosalind Krauss & Henry Moore. [here]

You can already see that there is another spirit presiding here, an idealistic one, perhaps a utopian one: it is egalitarian. But it is also based in an apprehension of the neutrality of the communicative medium. The machines facilitating the connection of Jane Fonda, Marcel Broodthaers, Ronald Reagan and Edward Said are mathematical, mathematized or anaesthetic – that is, insensible. Affect-less. The real connections constitute a network; the actual connections make up a simple graph, a pattern of connectivity that is scalable – but affect-less, however affective it might be. However much affect – a good feeling about bringing together such a heterogeneous collection of people – might have played its part and still does play its part. But not in the set-up: in the crime itself.

To consider the pattern for a moment, how does it work? Of course it is the mathematical model which is neutral and in its aesthetic overlay makes the underlying configuration anaesthetic, invisible: it hides it. What is happening is that points are surrogating for persons at terminals; another overlay or whitewash makes  those terminals interminate – they become throughchannels not endpoints: points on a line connecting endlessly.

The thing the model finds interesting however is the proliferation of lines – on which there are points. And the model valorises these lines. It ascribes power to them, in fact. Network power. Insofar as a quantitative principle is brought to bear on the point as a multiple throughpoint: the greater the number of lines or vertices or edges crossing and therefore connecting that point, the greater the value it has to the network. The point becomes a node. It presupposes both connectivity and the numerical multiplicity of other nodes. Let there be many!

Submitted to this mathematization, we can see in ARPANET a glorious precursor and a banal presumption: difference can be celebrated at the same time as it is nullified; and at the same time as the numerical values drawn from the model come to have statistical significance those quantitative signifiers or quanta supplant the mere atomes of the communicating persons, who are anatomised. Connectivity over connection, links over nodes.

This already latent valorization is actualised and exploited in the commercialization of the social graph. The gain is obvious: if we are dealing with throughpoints then we are dealing in throughput, productivity, or production-line affect, where each piece has entity, need only be counted and need never be reconstituted as the desiring or communicating body in a social configuration. Because it should also be clear that what the graph does is as much a-subjective as it is asocial. But it is objective. Objects are made. And it is to objects that asocial subjects return.

Here is the crime: in the mechanism. Or, put otherwise, the machine in the ghost. What Alex Monea calls a cloud might really be a proliferation of small machines with nothing more or other than numerical value. Of people reduced to quanta who freely choose to identify with these the smallest possible units of their online consumer status. Little objects of self-love.

Contrary to Alex, I don’t think of a becoming-cloud in anything other than these critical terms, unless I am thinking of the distributed and or virtual processing called cloud computing, which opens a whole new range of options.

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a n e w w o r l d

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