Friday, May 20, 2005

Images of War

The formation of the modern state involves monopolizing certain services and undermining traditional face-to-face relationships. The reason that the King has a power that the seigneurial lord lacks is because the King is removed and illusory. The idea of the King is stronger than the reality of the Master in the mind of the peasant. This aloofness is most pronounced in God, who is ever-present in spirit, yet never seen. And so, the highest power is that which is completely removed.
Perhaps them the War on Terror will succeed in returning the state to a monopoly over images that it was formerly lacking. This was a serious problem at the end of the Cold War. If the state loses its dialectical strength without an Evil Empire, how can it remain more powerful than advertisements? The answer, of course, is that it can't. The corporate nobility always threatens the government. Conservatives fear liberal Hollywood, and Liberals fear Corporate control of the mental commons. But, it's all the same problem; the figure in the deodorant ad has more power over our imagination than the figure in the White House.
Until bin Laden came along, there was no dramatic core to the state. Now, it has an emotive purpose again. And Madison Avenue must be raving over the buzz on bin Laden. He makes a video a year, yet he's still bigger than Ben Affleck!
The problem is that the dramatic core to this war is trite. There was a sort of Shakespearean tragedy to Communism; watching people kill their culture for a dream they once had. It was sorrowful, whereas Islamicism is simply nihilistic. "We hate you so much we kill ourselves." All that's left is ashes. Nothing to think about or hope fore. Bin Laden is the spiritual leader of suicides.
And, Bush, who should be the man on the white horse in this story gives us nothing to think about either. He's like Napoleon III, but at least he built up Paris. There's nothing worth writing about Bush. His thoughts all come from self-help books and religious workshops. People like Michael Moore obsess over Bush because he speaks the same dumbed-down language that they do. But, simplicity and nihilism aren't far apartl.
It's as if Bin Laden and Bush are dumbed-down versions of Hitler and Woodrow Wilson. Maybe they're starring in the remake, which has been simplified for the mass audience.

1 comment:

Lyle Daggett said...

Brings to mind the famous remark by Karl Marx, to the effect that history repeats itself, the first time a tragedy, the second time as farce.

That's a close paraphrase; the original quote is in Marx's book The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, an account of the seizure of power in France (ca. 1851) of Napoleon's lesser-known nephew.

Interesting blog. Saw your comment on mine, thanks for posting, and for posting a link to my blog in yours.