Vote or Die, You Stupid Spoiled Whore!

Australia Day…

“[N]o issue is intrinsically a gut issue; it is produced as such only by reducing the complexity of the debates, the various interpretations and contradictions that surround it, to a matter of affective investment. The conservative strategy depends upon a logic in which the fact of the ‘gut commitment’ becomes more important that the content of the commitment itself. It is a strategy which seeks political power by tactically dissociating itself from politics. In the end, political realities seem to matter less than political commitments. […]
“The new conservative alliance does not need to deploy specific commitments or beliefs, but it had to foreground the need to believe in belief, to make a commitment to commitment. This strategy bears a striking resemblance to so-called sleeze TV which has become so popular, especially in talk and ‘real-life’ shows [reality TV?]. Despite their often conservative appearance, a careful look suggests that they have no consistent political position: rather, they seem to consistently take the position, on whatever topic, which enabled and even called forth maximum passion. The new conservatism makes politics into a marketing problem, but it is passion or sentimentality itself that is marketed.” (p. 270-271)
– Larry Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Grossberg’s book is out of date, but his lament on the state of politics in the US circa early-1990s is certainly a useful way to think about the performances of various celebrities and ‘personalities’ in the current era of popular culture.

I was reminded of this the other night when I caught South Park on the boob tube. It was an episode where the boys demolish an infamous ‘personality’:

Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset
All the fourth grade girls idolize a rich, famous and spoiled socialite. They even have her brand new toy set that comes complete with video camera, night vision filter, play money and losable cell phone. In an effort to impress their idol, the girls pursue the boys to make their own videos

It was a great episode! The grand finale was a “whore off” and will forever be one of my fondest memories. The vacuous ‘stupid spoiled whore’ subject position is perfectly complemented by another performance: the “perfect gentleman” deploying the pimp aesthetic. If you think back to the VMA‘s the position of maximum passion was occupied by P. Diddy and his problematic “Vote or Die!” campaign. As well as reminding me of the classic Skate or DIE! video game, Citizen Coombs’ performance at the Miami-hosted VMAs forced him to somehow politicise his normal pimp persona.

The “Vote or Die!” campaign did work apparently, but getting people to vote is not enough. I know that young people (under-30) allegedly are more likely to vote for the Democrat party, but I wonder if Citizen Coombs really understands how much he played into the hands of Bush-Cheney’s conservative politics of sentiment. The disparate relation to the politics of sentiment between Kerry and Bush was really made apparent during the final debate over the question of abortion (question 7). Kerry was caught trying to explain a complex issue to some fuckin retarded right-wing ninja gimp and super-hero Bush came along with the smack-down I-tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear comments.

Diddy really needs to get political sophistication back into his approach and not merely rely on a politics of sentiment while deploying a “commitment to commitment” for maximum effect. (It sickens me that I am arguing that a media personality needs to get a more sophisticated politics, fuck…) Hillary Clinton does make a weak attempt to complexify the issues later in this interview from MTV (ital. added):

P. Diddy: We are here with the legendary Hillary Clinton, from my home state of New York. Thank you for talking to us.

Hillary Clinton: I am delighted and I am delighted by what you’re doing.

Diddy: Thank you. We’re not going to get into sophisticated politics, we’re gonna get into a problem that we have in young America, and that is young Americans being disenfranchised. Only 36 percent of us have voted. You are one of the few politicians that young people relate to. And we want to get a message on why you think it’s important for young people to vote this year. And please talk to the people who are disenfranchised and don’t believe in the power of their vote.

The New Media Archive

I knocked up a first draft of my Blogtalk paper today and one of the problems I won’t be able to address is to do with the archives of blogs and email lists. What is going to happen to these archives? The recent dissolution of the Spoon’s lists brought all these questions to the front of my mind. There is so much written in these archives… A future archivist with his sidekick publisher will go through these old posts like current publisher’s go through past lectures and interviews when the primary texts of an author have been exhausted and republished like the “Best of…” albums you buy at service stations.

Probably the person to start thinking about this stuff in any concrete way will be someone in the ilk of Friedrich Kittler. Kittler’s work has been obsessed with the technological conditions of discourse and the link between the military that always seems to produce the technology and the culture produced by the discursive regimes enabled by such technology. The same thing as happened with the emergence of internet and then the WWW. The internet was originally (still is?) part of the military-industrial complex. It was developed as a decentralised communication network so if there was ever a nuclear attack there would be something that survived to launch a counter attack. Now I am hopefully due to give a paper discussing something that has emerged as a socio-technical offshoot. Does it feel like I am talking about a technology of war? Not really. Does it feel like I am using a technology of war to write this? Hmm, nup. Does it feel like you are reading this text provided to your screen via a technology of war?

But what cultural forms have been made possible by this technological archive? Definitely the concept of ‘network’ would have little truck today if it had not been the need for a US nuclear counter attack. The concept of the network that theorists like Negri and Hardt deploy in Multitude would not be possible if it were not for the cool, calculating abstraction of the utter fear and hatred of the Cold War.

Anyway, I have been reading the old Spoon’s D&G list archives. Anyone who wants to get a grip on D&G there is sooo much stuff in there. Fuck… I can’t believe it sometimes! I found this quote in a post by Greg Seigworth (whole post is worth reading!) and I think it may relate to a post about writing by Christian on his blog. It is from Maurice Blanchot’s Awaiting Oblivion (p11):

“He started hearing to the side of what she was saying, and as if behind it, but in an expanse without depth, with no top or bottom, yet which was materially locatable, another utterance with which hers had almost nothing in common.”

I feel like I sometimes pursue this too much in my own work. Try to locate, disect it, follow it up, play with it and so on. It means I am not doing what I should be doing, which is my thesis. It makes me realise how bloody lucky I am to have the freedom of thought to pursue my thoughts to the point where I feel as if I think from from the side. I have an antidote to that now, though. No more free thoughts for Glen. They are all going to cost me, because, if I want to complete within little over a year, then I need to reign in my thinking and focus it. Over the weekend I drew up a final chapter outline and plan of attack for submission. I know what I have to write, how much I have left to write and pretty much how I am going to write it. So now it is time to get it done and time to get to work.

The Evental Potential of Blogs

I am tempted to submit something to the Australian blogtalk event (found via Mel Gregg’s blog). Hmm, blogging isn’t my intellectual thing, but it could be fun to go to see what’s going on. I have had an idea rolling around in my head for a while. Blogging really came to my attention during the recent US presidential election coverage on CNN. The role of blogs and bloggers in the election was one of the positive things to come out of this otherwise dire and totally fucked-up historical episode.

Blogs served a number of roles in the election. They were used by presidential candidates as mechanisms for fundraising and as a form of communication with the electorate and supporters. They were used by supporters of particular candidates or parties in an unofficial capacity. They were also used by political and media commentators in what has been described as a “fact-checking” capacity for claims and stories produced by the traditional broadcast media. What seems to be confused is the exact nature of the impact of blogs and bloggers on the election.

My response is that the impact of blogs and bloggers on the outcome of the election is only indirect. However, bloggers apparently did play a role in the media-event of the election. I am using Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz notion of a media-event:

“The most obvious difference between a broadcast television media event and formulas or genres of broadcasting is that they are, by definition, not routine. In fact, they are interruptions of routine; they intervene in the normal flow of broadcasting and our lives. […] Typically, these events are organized outside of the media […] the media only provide a channel for their transmission. By ‘outside’ we mean both that the events take place outside the studio […] and that the event is not usually initiated by the broadcasting organizations.” (5)

Having an impact on the election and having an impact on the media-event of the election are two separate things. Dayan and Katz separate a historical event and media reportage on such an event which constitutes a media-event. Official blogs and other forms of online presence certainly affected the nature of the election as a historical event. A good example here is the way Kerry managed to raise funds from many ‘little’ online donations compared to a few ‘large’ corporate donations. Unofficial, non-institutionalised blogs of the masses did not make an impact on the historical event.

The plane of immanence of the presidential media-event remained Old Media, that is, bloggers and other unofficial online sources are not yet journalists in that they do not yet have the capacity to produce what most people would recognise as ‘news’. The principle of recognition is very important. Information may have ‘newsworthiness’ and fulfill the necessary conditions (of ‘truth’, for example) for it to be classified as news, however, missing is the recognition of the newsworthiness of blogged information by an immanently constituted mass public. Recognition is something bestowed by the ‘public’ as the multititudinal audience of the media and is inherently technological. The technological relation between news and public is constituted in part by technologies of habit, and television still holds this card. The institutional nature of Old Media bestows a legitimacy upon their practices of knowledge production.

Inter-media network relations mean that bloggers do have an impact on the consitution and modulation of the media-event of the election. What bloggers did is equally important as the role of Old Media. Bloggers have the capacity to modulate the event’s becoming. What we would see from the traditional media is reportage on the event that enables and frames discussion. Arguably what is produced by bloggers is discussion that enables and frames the event. A simple example of this is the way blogger’s disrupted the narrative consitution of the event produced by the traditional broadcast media in the story about Kerry and the swiftboat vetrans.

The media outlets that constitute ‘Old Media’ remain in collective control on the initial construction of the media-event and for blogging to take over this role seems to be some time away. In fact, I don’t think blogging will ever replace Old Media as the institutional centre of news production. However, blogging does have the potential, as indicated by their role in the presidential election, to operate as a collective apparatus of capture that operates in an antagonistic relation to institutionalised New and Old Media forms.

Important to note is that other than traditional understandings of the production of imformation institutionally tempered as ‘news’ is the potential for blogging practice to capture ‘sense’ from the excess of meaning produced within the never ending series of historical events that, according to Marc Auge, define our era as Supermodern. Auge defines the Supermodern in terms of excess produced by the paradoxiacal contraction and expansion of space and the acceleration of historical time. Auge argues that the historical event produces an excess of meaning itself, but when coupled with the acceleration or excess of historical events, the cultural landscape is saturated in a double excess of meaning. The US elections are a good example of this excess of meaning where every action and speech made by candidates has the potential for newsworthiness.

The distributed networks of blogging allows for a multiplicity of partial accounts that attempt to ‘make’ sense of this excess of meaning that does not rely on the centralised institutions of the Old Media. Sense is captured collectively across a number of producers and the relation between which is determined by the extent of self-organising networks. Foucault has discussed the way sense is captured in discourse and discursive practice produces knowledge inherently involves relations of power. The distributed networks of New Media and blogging in particular have the potential to dislocate the institutional centrality of discursive practice. For this to occur bloggers will have to remain being creative in their reading habits and relations of sociality. If the network sociality produced by blogs was to coagulate to such an extent around too few core blogs or sites then the anti-institutional potential for blogs would evaporate.

Existential self-loathing? take a look at yourself

Pay TV for me is a bit like smoking dope for those dudes in high school that everyone knew and probably everyone actually was at one stage. Like the way to ascertain if a dope smoking session had been an authentic dope-smoking-session depended on whether or not you solved the problems regarding the Meaning of Life and articulating the MoL proof in the argot of surfie-bogan. Similarly, a few times since being home I have veged out in front of the telly and have found myself thinking very mysterious thoughts… What are mysterious thoughts? Not my regular thoughts… Well regular for someone who reads D&G with his morning cereal as his morning serial. Oh, dear. Speaking about myself. How embarrassment. Yes, I wanna get very self indulgent…

After checking out what was on Cartoon Network, I flicked on through catching a flick that struck me as capturing in a remarkably clear manner one of the problems that has been bugging me for a damn long while. The film is entitled Me Without You and is very, very interesting. Not only because it mentions ‘deconstruction’ in an intelligent way, but it also has some fuckin cool music.

What grabbed my attention where the respective plights of the two main characters. They are friends and it is a ‘toxic relationship’ as the little blue button on my pay TV remote told me in the description of the movie. One, Marina (played by Anna Friel), is scared of being normal, having a family and kid and all that shit. Her mum attempts a suicide via overdose and I got the impression that was how she was going to turn out for most of it. The other, Holly (played by Michelle Williams of “Dawson’s” non-fame), is continually somehow halted from developing a relationship with Marina’s big brother, Nat (Oliver Milburn who looks a lot like this other bloke I know named Myke who now lives in Melbourne!!! WTF! If Mykle ever needed a job he could get one being this guys stunt double or, at least, his stunt cock;). Holly is the “intellectual in the family” as Marina‘s mum describes her and has a big future being a journalist and writing books – she is also the one who delivers the line about ‘deconstruction’ as a critical methodology losing its viscerality or something like that…

The dynamic between Marina’s utter self-loathing (she even wears a t-shirt that says “I Hate Me”) and Holly’s stultified potential are two sides of my very own self. I realised driving home from an indoor soccer match earlier this evening that I really do loathe my own existence. Not in some happy Disneycide way that you find on a brain-numbing evening soap where the pretty young thing hates him or herself compared to some other knob. I don’t hate myself, I quite like who I am and I don’t think I would like to be anyone else. I am not talking about envy masquerading as self-loathing, I mean the real deal. I find my very existence problematic. Here is my list of existential self-loathings:

List deleted. I was scaring myself.

Opposite the self of annihilation, which is really just a tendency and I shall get to that later, is the site of potential, played by Holly in the filmic representation of my self. Yep, Glen doing his PhD, blah blah blah. I just deleted a whole lot of random, boring stuff.

My problem is how to deal with this self-loathing. Should I aspire to have a good job, family and house? Should I aspire to succeed? Should I aspire to fulfill my potential? Which potential? The one where I become the best damn Borg on the planet by efficiently assimilating (at least I’ll have to start going to the gym again), or the one where I am motivated by never ending sense of awe I feel when I witness the utter stupidity of the world.

Surely this is a problem that everyone with a nanogram of critical spirit realises about their own existence living in such a painfully unjust capitalist society where everything is taken for granted. It really does shit me to tears sometimes, but blokey tears so they are silent and I let them run down my face like they aren’t there.

I have been really bugged by this since I got an email through the CSAA list and then read on Melissa Gregg’s blog about a research project for “early career public intellectuals”. I find that term extremely problematic – “career” alongside “public intellectual”? How is this possible in the current era of sportsmen who speak like bankers and once-were-academics who have to whore themselves for an income by fitting into this fuckin system. ‘Career’ is the historical workplace-based process of deterritorialisation by capital. Of course that would never happen, look at all the wonderful examples of ‘public intellectuals’ who are very well placed in their careers we have around us. However, ‘early career’ is problematic as it signals a tendency or aspiration toward an eventual deterritorialisation by capital. It makes my blood turn cold. How can ‘early career’ and ‘public intellectual’ be reconciled so easily without an unacceptable compromise on either side of the divide?

Fuck I dunno…

Capital is eyeballin’ you

Since being back home I have been cranking the pay-tv my folks have. I caught _Dog Soldiers_ this morning, dang, that is a cool movie… Anyway, on the Cartoon Network they have this promotion running at the moment called _Eyeballs 2_. Here is the login page.

Fly Buys points and all the other consumer incentive programs operate as an apparatus of capture for networks/circuits of consumption. That is, they simply do not encourage people to buy something from one shop, they commodify entire chains in the networks of consumption. Capitalists call this ‘synergy’. The clearest example of this in Australia is the relatively recent melding of petrol/service/gas stations with supermarkets/grocery stores. It is recent because it didn’t exist when I worked at a service station up until early 2003. Spend a certain amount ‘here’ and you get money off your fuel bill at the linked servo ‘there’. I think these circuits of consumption are very interesting as commercial interests are not simply investing in your patronage, but they attempt to commodify a massive chunk of your life. Your lifestyle becomes a resource – a resource that is strip-mined for everything your got and don’t got (via credit).

They sucker you in with the only simulacra that exists anymore with any meaning (ooh, the paradox): the ‘bargain’. The logic of the ‘sale’ or the ‘bargain’ motivates consumers to lease out their lifestyles – represented as circuits of consumption – to themselves so commercial interests can accrue rent, i.e. produce surplus value, over a network of consumption rather than a single point transaction. The bargain is a simulacra in one of Baudrillard’s modes (I can’t remember which one??). It is the logic that fools people into believing they are producing value by spending money. Is that retarded or what? Advertising seduction merely prompts consumers to desire something. The recent developments in consumer incentives organises this desire into seemingly self-perpetuating locuses of consumption.

Getting to my point, the model for this is not some fantastic business venture schemed up to rip multi-millionaires off. I argue the model is derived from children’s television programming. At some point in history the story became subsumed to these networks/circuits of consumption. The circuits of consumption were once derived from the fandom generated by a show to become the motivating force behind the show. So now these circuits of consumption organise fandom. Disney has been on the ball for years, it never really made the final step though… There is a dialectical tension between the principle of organisation implicitly promoted by the commercial interests and the organisation of fandom immanent to itself. I talk about this in my thesis with the car dudes and their enthusiasm. Some fandoms/enthusiasms are more autonomous than others. For example, computer game modders probably have more autonomy in terms of im/material production that sustains their fandom than does, say, an eight year old kid playing with his Pokemons.

Perhaps the best example of this is the US re-produced Japanese anime that was known in the US and elsewhere (including Australia) as Robotech. The fellows at Harmony Gold (US re-production house) had the genius to reconstruct three separate anime series from Japan into one massive show. They could do this because all three original series were made or influenced by the artwork of a single Japanese anime artist. Anyway, the deal would only be struck to make (or reproduce) the series as Robotech if they could guarantee sales of merchandising for toy maker Hasbro. The link between the show and the merchandising was intrinsic to the development of the show – the proof is found on the DVDs in the seven Robotech boxsets (I own them all, suckers!). There are a number of voice-overs and interviews that explain the relationship between Harmony Gold and Hasbro was essential to the re-production of Robotech and therefore, I argue, Robotech fandom.

The next stage in this commodifcation of networks of fandom is not modelled on television programming, but major league sports. Pay per view. With media on demand only a few dreamy sleeps away (like christmas!) the congruence of medias will herald the congruence of lifestyles, production and fandom – the biopolitical production of the perfect consumer.

What spawned this post is the now-running incentive program on the Cartoon Network called _Eyeballs 2_. It connects with Johnathan Beller’s argument regarding the ‘cinematic mode of production’ and check out a response to it also. Through what Beller calls the “labour of looking” kiddies collect ‘eyeballs’ and trade them in. The Cartoon Network is doing a massive favour to tomorrow’s business.

The ‘eyeball’ itself is interesting. It is not the ‘eyeballs’ of the kids (or big-kid PhD students) watching cartoons, but the eyeballs of capital. They are multiple and are only defined by their number – deterritorialised multiplicities. The qualitative differences between cartoons don’t matter. What matters is how many ‘eyeballs’ you have. You are defined by your ‘eyeballs’, or, rather, how many ‘eyeballs’ have you. They call it an ‘eyeD’ card.

The recent furore around mpeg music and movies online gains a different importance. It is not only the labour of looking that is being lost – the pay-per-view factor. What is also lost is the ability to manipulate consumers into circuits of consumption. The crucial scripts that determine the organisation of fandom are taken out of the hands of synergised media conglomerates and back in the hands of consumers. It is a bit like when car enthusiasts go street racing, there is no need to go to the drag strip…