Cartel of Defiance

cartel of defiance (noun): 1. In medieval combat, a formal declaration, delivered by herald, of a combatant's intention to fight and refusal to submit. 2. An electronic assemblage of engaged and enraged citizens. 3. An intertextual mode of reading, writing, and thinking that puts the current political, cultural, and personal moment in dialogue with text/art from the past in counterargument to the ahistorical Memory Hole into which America seems to have slipped.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Voices, Passive and Active

One wartime moment not at all vile occurred in June 5, 1944, when Dwight Eisenhower, alone with himself, for the moment disjunct from his publicity apparatus, changed the passive voice to active in the penciled statement he wrote out to have ready when the invasion was repulsed, his troops torn apart for nothing, his planes ripped and smashed to no end, his warships sunk, his reputation blasted:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.

Originally he wrote the trops have been withdrawn, as if by some distant, anonymous agency instead of by an identifiable man making all-but impossible decisions. Having ventured this bold revision, and secure now in his painful acceptance of full personal accountability, he is able to proceed unevasively with My decision:

My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available.

Then, after the conventional "credit," distributed equally to "the troops, the air, and the navy," Eisenhower's noble acceptance of total personal responsibility:

If any blame or fault attaches to this attempt, it is mine alone.

As Mailer says, you use the word shit so you can use the word noble, and you refuse to ignore the stupidity and barbarism and ignobility and poltroonery and filth of the real war so that it is mine alone can flash out, a bright signal in a dark time.

-- final paragraphs of Paul Fussell's Wartime (1989).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

nostalgia for the present

"Postmodernism" is itself the prime example of the conceptuality that results from such a system, in which reality itself is organized a little like those networks of political cells whose members have only met their immediate opposite numbers. Within this "concept," then, that coexistence of distinct representations we already know, but whose unique operations we have not sufficiently admired, can be compared to schizophrenia, if this last is really what Pynchon tells us it is ("Day by day, Wendell is less himself and more generic. He enters a staff meeting and the room is suddenly full of people"). A roomful of people, indeed, solicit us in incompatible directions that we entertain all at once: one subject position assuring us of the remarkable new global elegance of its daily life and forms; another one marveling at the spread of democracy, with all those new "voices" sounding out of hitherto silent parts of the globe or inaudible class strata (just wait a while, they will be here, to join their voices to the rest); other more querulous and "realistic" tongues reminding us of the incompetences of late capitalism, with its delirious paper-money constructions rising out of sight, its Debt, the rapidity of the flight of factories matched only by the opening of new junk-food chains, the sheer immiseration of structural homelessness, let alone unemployment, and that well-known thing called urban "blight" or "decay" which the media wraps brightly up in drug melodramas and violence porn when it judges the theme perilously close to being threadbare. None of these voices can be said to contradict the others; not "discourses" but only propositions do that, and the identity of identity and nonidentity does not seem very satisfactory for this one, for which "coexistence" is too reassuring a term as well, implying some ultimate chance of intergalactic collision in which matter and antimatter might finally meet and shake hands.... As an ideology which is also a reality, the "postmodern" cannot be disproved insofar as its fundamental feature is the radical separation of all levels and voices whose recombination in their totality could alone disprove it.

--Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, pp. 375-76 (1991)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Idle Hands

Nice article -- but was this really "roundly condemned" last time around?

How Long, O Lord?

At a time when the liars, the stupid, and the greedy seem too greatly in control of a society's policies, philosophies of materialistic reduction may bring us much solace in reminding us that the very nature of the materials out of which a civilization is constructed, or in which it is grounded, will not permit such perfection of lies, stupidity, and greed to prevail as some men might cause to prevail if they could have their way. For obstructive policies are self-defeating, often ironically hastening the very reforms that these policies were designed to prevent. Sinister interests may have so strong a hold upon the channels of authority, that the people will try their utmost to do what is asked of them, even to the point of destitution, perplexity, and suicide. Yet, even though the people would obey, there is materialistic solace in the thought that the sheer brute materials of the world as it is will disobey. For there are properties of the material order that are grounded in a more basic constitution than any that men can write. These material properties will produce the effects that go with their nature, regardless of how thoroughly the apologists of an outdated order may be equipped to deny this nature, and to so miseducate and misinform that men are trained to draw the lines at the wrong places, interpreting both private and social situations in woefully inaccurate terms. Then it is not by the Courts, but by the constitution of the materials themselves, that false measures will be invalidated.

--Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives

Friday, February 17, 2006

spiny norman over texas

cheney & whittington

"This past weekend encompassed all of us in a cloud of misfortune and sadness that is not easy to explain, especially to those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting," Mr. Whittington said.

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week," he added....

Mr. Whittington spoke in a firm, slightly raspy voice on Friday, and referring to Mr. Cheney and his family, he said: "We send our love and respect to them as they deal with situations that are much more serious than what we've had this week. And we hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."
--"Compassion for Cheney as Victim Heads Home," NYTimes 2/18/06


Presenter: Another man who had his head nailed to the floor was Stig O' Tracy.

Interviewer: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.

Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.

Interviewer: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.

Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.

Interviewer: Why?

Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law.

Interviewer: What had you done?

Stig: Er... well he didn't tell me that, but he gave me his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't *want* to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off. He'd do anything for you, Dinsdale would.

Interviewer: And you don't bear him a grudge?

Stig: A grudge! Old Dinsy? He was a real darling.

--M.Python, "Ethel the Frog" (1970)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


When South Africa applauds the way
The Tories use their power
To silence the debate on Northern Ireland
I wonder how long it will be
Before the nations of the world
Begin to impose sanctions upon my land.

--Billy Bragg, Ideology (stray live verse)

Man (1938)

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