Monday, December 28, 2015
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
(4) Why does anyone produce racist images in consumer media messages? The answer to that is simple: they’re paid to do so. Now, the workers who create racist messages might or might not “believe in” the messages, but from the standpoint of capitalist production, their belief is not relevant. Only the valorization of capital advanced by the capitalist in the form of profit is relevant. From the standpoint of the capitalist, the content of the message is irrelevant as long as it is saleable and profitable. Those messages that generate more profit will be reproduced again and again as long as they are profitable. Whether this produces or reproduces a culture that suffers violence, hatred, fear, and dysfunction is also not relevant to the capitalist, except in so far as those sufferings can be treated as needs for which consumer objects can be produced for a profit.
It is important to emphasize that this does not explain the origin of racism (or of language). But I’m not sure discovering the origin of racism is important for dealing with racism. I am sure that dealing with racism will require dealing with profiteering from it.
Monday, December 14, 2015
And not to be gloomy and doomy about it, but the catastrophic end of capitalism doesn’t necessarily lead to communism. It could just be catastrophe.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
At great risk of self-poopifying, I would like to call attention to what I think is a sure sign of the decadence and depravity of consumer culture in our day and age—the cynical, meaning-destroying, emptying contextless repetition of iconic images. I hope to do more than complain, but to sketch an analysis of this capitalist spectacle.
Marilyn Monroe has been dead longer than I’ve been alive, and her image has continued, zombie-like, to roam among us. The image “Marilyn” is a reference without meaning, an icon of sex appeal that is by now rendered totally sexless. It merely indicates when and where one is supposed to respond according to an overdetermined habit of “belief.” That is, as a normal subject, the image “Marilyn” cues you to associate “sexuality” with some object. It operates like a sticky note, if you’ll pardon the expression, that labels an otherwise inert object with the message that you are supposed to believe is sexually charged and obtainable by purchase, contrary to all reality. “Marilyn” is obscene and prurient, an image of sexual death that normalizes the necrophilia of consuming behavior.
Furthermore, I am convinced that normal subjects know this and are capable of appropriate shame about it. As in the case of all our cultural addictions to obscenities, we consume “Marilyn” in guilt, and that guilt provides the excuse for continuing to use, continuing to consume.
In some ways a more curious case is the iconography of the film The Wizard of Oz. Reconfigured as it is here, as imagery in a computer game that functions as a non-gambling form of gambling, it means nothing. It does not actually refer to The Wizard of Oz—not to the film, not to the plot or characters in the film, not to the actors in the film. The “ruby slippers” are only the icon, without reference.
We generally expect cultural signifiers to signify, even if all they signify is the universal command to consume. As part of an advertisement for a game whose primary purpose is to expose users to more advertisement, these signifiers can barely be said to add value as a brand for consuming. These icons simply float, purposelessly and meaninglessly, in a nebula in which all images are juxtaposed without interacting or reacting. It is degree-zero of communication, as Baudrillard put it: the staging of an image that is a non-image because it is not an image of anything. Baudrillard called this the hyper-real, but this is because he was nostalgic for meaning, and such images can only appear as hyper-real in reference to a reality that they deny or destroy. They are hypo-real and hypo-realizing for experience. They defy any attempt to compose meaning.
What does it mean for us, or about us, that we spend so much time among these sepulchral artifacts?