Archives for category: Discussion

Link, the response is on their comment board, jump over to see the words wherein I reiterate old motifs (hipsterrunoff, authenticity, capitalism) and iterate new ones (virtualization, buzz, media-capital). Was that an appropriate use of “iterate”?

Astute readers may recall my previous post on ‘Culture Wars‘ wherein I dabbled in 9/11 truthing, communism 2.0, and wrote this:

However, we also live in a time that loves to leap to conclusions. As a result, as a culture we thrive on jumping the shark before there was even a golden achievement in place. Think of the so-called ‘enthusiasm gap,’ following Barack Obama. His momentous victory, his Nobel Peace prize, all before he had delivered anything but face-melting rhetoric solos.

Or think of the recent Odd Future phenomenon, the way a band was able to generate so much hype through a finely tuned, internet driven, buzz machine, that they blew up and had a career almost overnight; and now they are looking to publish a book about their lifestyle.

Likewise, Justin Bieber gathered ‘Beliebers’ with astonishing speed, achieving a career and a retrospective movie in almost the same instant that the masses first heard of him. Both of these artists are talented, but lets turn to 60′s media theorist Marshall McLuhan who coined such phrases as ‘the global village,’ and ‘the medium is the message.’

The message from Odd Future and Justin Bieber is only partially about their music, the real message is the self-perpetuating hype that they generate. Justin Bieber is popular and notorious because he is popular and notorious. At a certain tipping point, Odd Future generated buzz about the amount of buzz that they generated. We have hit a critical feedback loop in the media machine.

In my reply to the post on Cyborgology (link again) I revisit this “critical feedback loop in the media machine” as media-capital, which I construe as analogous to financial capital. While financial capital invests money for the sake of earning more money, media capital invests advertising for the sake of generating more advertising (in the form of blogs, tweets, etc.)  My point is that speech is the currency of the day.

I am also indebted to David Harvey for my current understanding of capital as an investment cycle, which he outlines in his reading of Marx’s Capital.  I can’t offer a specific quote, if you’re interested you will have to wade through his lectures, which are available free online.


The money belongs to a “self-enriching aristocracy.”

Identity politics as obfuscating a radically universal vision of democracy.

Here is another article from the latest issue of Logos, an academically oriented journal quietly collecting, editing, and posting content for a small but dedicated audience of humanist intellectuals…right?

“Richards was not alone in his preoccupations which, in Blues and popular music, were really about embracing the Black take on a culture which had tried to enslave it, and having failed at that, to lynch it out of existence…The Chess Brothers helped invent the modern record business, Polish Jews who set up a recording studio and begin to tape the songs and stories of Blacks driven from the South and into the ghettos of Chicago looking, as they used to say ‘for a better life.’ Richards quickly sussed the Chicago Blues scene, which for someone raised within Britain’s caste system must have seemed Paradise Found. Though Richards never formulates the ‘problem,’ his life offers ample evidence of what the Hipster obsession with drugs created.”

The Stones made a career glorifying the rough and tumble attitude of the working class, but that tactic in 2k11 probably wouldn’t fly. Mainstream consumers are not going to get off on “street life” any more, they are too close to it.

We live in the times of the disenfranchised. The precariously positioned bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie of the 2000’s reveal the truth of a slogan that I think points to the center of American culture, “broke is the new black.”

Money is the appointed guardian of American status. Even the liberal arts padawan cannot escape being judged in terms of financial success, at least the ability to support oneself comfortably, despite years of neo-bohemian college living. Furthermore, the critiques from the Left have turned into a muscular arm of commerce. How favorable do you reckon the market for anti-Capitalist books and essays is right now? Folks have been making a living selling Critical Theory writings, teachings, and ephemera for generations, albeit now more than ever they are pressured to sell their thoughts about selling-out. I’m thinking specifically of Colson Whitehead’s new novel Zone One that features a zombie filled post-apocalyptic world that is a thinly veiled allegory for mindless consumerism. While it makes this critique at one level, the book comes out with broad fan support, a marketable genre, a major publisher’s advertising campaign, and it debuts in time for the holiday gift buying season. Whitehead stands to rake in the royalties even as he admonishes consumerism. Well played, but horribly stultifying.

What this means is terribly messy to articulate. Can one make analogies between the Civil Rights movement and #ows’ push for economic equality? Can one lay claim to “indentured servitude” brought on by student loan debt without talking about slavery and the racial stratification of wealth?

Finally, is it possible to make a living in the market system while devoting energy and worry to “The System’s” feverish collapse? Will the hippies be able to support themselves selling handmade trinkets at global music festivals?

What is interesting, I think, is that Leftists are caught in a bind. We want to add jobs just as much as we want to watch Capitalism itself fail. The short term solution, to hire labor, is at odds with the long term solution, which is to abolish labor as we know it. As in social movements of the past, #ows suffers from a split between angry Democrats and zealous radicals, two groups that are in a surprisingly shaky alliance. Democrats want to socialize the market with unions, regulations, and fabled “green jobs.” Radicals want to throw off the market entirely. Neither group has a cogent and proven strategic plan.

Meanwhile, the hipsters of the world want to sneer as they combat social ills with an alternative lifestyle and sophisticated, informed, consumption. What is the hipster but one that has, for whatever reason, identified with and subsequently gentrified and commodified the culture of oppressed demographics? And yet, in 2k11 being broke is no longer cool.

As the linked article mentions, in the 60’s, rock was the soundtrack of unrest. In the 2000’s, is the soundtrack to revolt dubstep?

Here is what dubstep can tell us about today’s social and political upheaval; it quickly spread around the world, it is fully digital, it is urban, most importantly it has no unified message other what Will called a “post-apocalyptic aesthetic.”

I really have no central thesis here. Apologies.

“Traditional democratic theory assumes that citizens will, and do play a central role in politics. Mills challenges this view by illustrating the shortcomings within contemporary democratic theory, particularly its naïve treatment of pluralism, power and participation.  The way power and decision making in America has become monopolized by elites who dominate the major decisions of the day is described by Mills as a set of power relations that both foster and rest upon a society of passive masses rather than a society of active publics.”