Work work work and little play. I hope I’m not too dull in this entry. The purpose of this post is to provide some context for more discussion on Actor Assange contrasted with the covert ops we can see glimmers of in the bourgeois press that the chattering left is largely ignoring, as usual.
The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch, 1979
The mass media, with their cult of celebrity and their attempt to surround it with glamour and excitement, have made Americans a nation of fans, moviegoers. The media give substance to and thus intensify narcissistic dreams of fame and glory, encourage the common man to identify himself with the stars and to hate the “herd”, and make it more and more difficult for him to accept the banality of everyday existence.
I saw a tweet from someone I’m fond of recently that criticized americans’ ideas of what romantic relationships even are, how they think they should be ideally structured, and that they probably learned so much crap they argue about from sitcoms. Sounds about right to me. I was thinking more on that and I recalled a bland sitcom from my youth that I didn’t really watch, but if you were around network television at all in the 90s, you were inundated with these idiotic shows. The one I was thinking of was Mad About You, starring some guy who wasn’t funny (?) enough to get Billy Crystal ratings, and some woman with a long face who starred in a movie about tornadoes, I think. They’re really not important, they could be any duo of pale muppets to my mind, but I thought back on it as a type of relational conditioning.
What I did see of their so-called relationship in the show was as entertaining as watching paint dry. In fact, watching bright green spring grass flowing in a warm breeze is more satisfying. In any case, I think this couple absolutely mad for each other lived together for a while before tying the knot, and this was somehow supposed to make it edgy. Never mind how tweedledum and tweedledee made the rent in their big city lovers’ pad. But I guess they had it rough because if they got in a tiff while one of them was showering, the other would flush the toilet and cause the water temp to drastically change. Owwie wow! How odd. Most everywhere I could rest my head in those days had indoor plumbing that didn’t do that, but what do I know. I was told I didn’t get the supposed nuances of Seinfeld since I had never lived in NYC. That is all to say that in these 40 years since Lasch’s book was published, we’ve gotten some dreadful messages about what a day to day with each other could look like, and they are mostly removed from material reality.
But the real point of highlighting this passage is to lead up to another about the vacuity of political psyop stars of his time, actorvists as Darren Seals called them, and how not much of this has changed. This book is startling as far as how precise Lasch is about social science being you know, a real science, apart from the therapeutic self-help psychological and psychiatric trends in his time, and how this mass conditioning has become much more concentrated and scarier in the internet age. Earlier in the first chapter, he discusses the disappearance of the fictionalized narrator in experimental writing which allowed popular writers then (Mailer, Vonnegut are two better-knowns he hits on) to excuse themselves from any sort of responsibility they have to their readers.
The narcissist’s pseudo-insight into his own condition, usually expressed in psychiatric clichés, serves him as a means of deflecting criticism and disclaiming responsibility for his actions. “I am aware that this book is rather stunningly male chauvinistic,” writes Dan Greenberg in his Scoring: A Sexual Memoir. “Well, what else can I tell you? … I mean, that’s what we were — so what else is new? I’m not condoning the attitude, I’m merely reporting it.” […]
The author now speaks in his own voice but warns the reader that his version of the truth is not to be trusted. […] Having called attention to himself as a performer, the writer undermines the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. By fogging over the the distinction between truth and illusion, he asks the reader to believe his story not because it rings true or even because he claims it is true, but simply because he claims it might conceivably be true — at least in part — if the reader chose to believe him. The writer waives the right to be taken seriously, at the same time escaping the responsibilities that go along with being taken seriously. He asks the reader not for understanding but for indulgence. In accepting the writer’s confession that he lied, the reader in turn waives the right to hold the writer accountable for the truth of his report. The writer thus attempts to charm the reader instead of trying to convince him, counting on the titillation provided by pseudo-revelation to hold the reader’s interest.
This was the masscult climate for the Weathermen and an assortment of a “fistful of the most impatient members of this country’s white student left” to make their mark on media spectacles. Lasch goes on:
Undertaken in this evasive mood, confessional writing degenerates to anticonfession. The record of the inner life becomes an unintentional parody of inner life. […] The writer no longer see life reflected in his own mind. Just the opposite: he sees the world, even in its emptiness, as a mirror of himself.
This positioning is akin to the ironic detachment we see play out online among the so-called left and now those who are calling themselves communists, and the script outlined above reflects the concentration I mentioned — delivered in however many characters allowed by Twitter Inc. now. I visit many timelines of those I don’t follow, who appear to be fellow travelers, but whose tweets I see retweeted that are passable as witty observations or perhaps even (even! from people calling themselves communists) concern for oppressed populations under the jackboot of american fascism.
Those few tweets get “action” (retweets) because others can relate to them, but trying to get a feel for the author contextually brings the reader back to this sad yawning void known as their timeline, written by someone who can’t articulate why their own life might have some semblance of meaning. And what is sadder to me is that they don’t appear that they want to. Many of these more popular accounts literally read “guys I belong in the dumpster, isn’t that funny?” It’s not funny, and it’s exactly where the ruling class would like to see anyone who doesn’t go along with their plans. Why would a reader expect one to really give a shit about helping others — seriously, any other person outside of oneself — with that kind of view toward oneself? Well, the entirety of what was once “weird twitter” that is now supposedly edgy left/commie twitter is predicated on the kind of dishonesty and anticonfession Lasch lays out, and it’s on loop.
Activist Susan Stern profiled in the above-linked NYT article (credit goes to one of my best tweet buds for that after I had posted an excerpt from The Culture of Narcissism that mentioned her) is probably one of the best-kept secrets as far as being an early progenitor of the narcissistic twitter trend:
Neither drugs nor fantasies of destruction — even when the fantasies are objectified in “revolutionary praxis” — appease the inner hunger from which they spring. Personal relations founded on reflected glory, on the need to admire and be admired, prove fleeting and insubstantial. Stern’s friendships and love affairs ended in disillusionment, animosity, recrimination. She complains of an inability to feel anything: “I grew more frozen inside, more animated outside.” Although her life revolved around politics, the political world has no reality in her memoir; it figures only as a projection of her own rage and unease, a dream of anxiety and violence.
There is something important here to note about Assange: there was not a story happening, and a “leak” was not significant, unless he could insert himself into its telling in some way. More on that next time.