The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    tmccarthy0's picture

    How Do We Defeat the Spectacle?

    Let's face it America, we love a good or a bad spectacle, amirite? It is the only thing that can explain how we ended up with Trump. 

    The Society of the Spectacle is my go to work for figuring out the Trump era. Our backward tumble towards intellectual darkness is happening at lightening speed, and it is a little bit scary.  But the Spectacle itself is a shining beacon to individuals craving a modicum of agency over their own lives. 

     Rather than getting into another argument about who is progressive and who is neo-liberal, it's time to put aside the games we play with each other, which is merely a part of what the Spectacle demands. We comply because we distrust each other. And that doubt in each other leaves us as a society much easier to control.  Our growing distrust in each other, in our civic institutions, is the darkness enveloping our national discourse. 

    I was reading some accounts of the Gianforte celebration last night, where his supporters were harassing reporters, calling them snowflakes, generally giving Montana conservatives a bad name. I have real questions about how we allow ourselves to become so driven by the utter rejection of normality and basic respect for each other has all but disappeared from our daily interactions.  But this kind of behavior also get's people noticed their small communities, often like Gianforte pummeling a reporter, they are cheered for it, and as they become the spectacle and it pays off they crave more of it. Being infamous is now a goal and no longer should it be avoided.

    To defeat the spectacle, we must actively reject the Spectacle and convince others to dismiss the Spectacle with us. The Spectacle needs us to keep fighting each other, and to continue to reject norms that govern democratic societies and so far all sides are complying.

    I honestly don't know how to get people to stop fighting with each other, not here, and not at local party meetings, I honestly see this as a larger problem for the 2018 election. Our inability to suck up the loss in 2016, to honestly assess that loss, (everyone did make mistakes.. hello... it's true, Hill's campaign, Bernie, lies, propaganda, voters, etc) and moving forward continues to hound Democrats. While we bludgeon each other, our losses multiply.  We cannot continue to stand apart.

    I honestly implore people to read Debord's work, I am not a Situationalist, but I believe this particular work, which is linked above adequately describes our current cultural dilemma. Maybe others have ideas on how we defeat the spectacle. 


    This seems relevant to the diagnosis we should be looking for. We like to judge. It's comforting. The difference between hate on the one hand and fear and anger on the other is that hate is painless. 

    More in the same vein. It's not about changing one's message, it's about arguing like you care about the other, and not just playing to an audience or treating it like a competition. Empathy and compassion are contagious. Or that would be my operating hypothesis. 

    I like  ´arguing like you care about the other¨ .

    I think this is correct. Great links, thanks for those.

    Wow, I just got around to looking at your links and that first one, What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic by Asam Ahmad, is fabulous. Written in 2015, it's like he predicted the whole Trump election as I see it. Truly a "must read," I am going to pass it around. I can think of some people around here who might benefit from reading it, too....

    Thanks AA. I do find it's a helpful reminder to myself from time to time. ;0)

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    Hi Mac!

    I personally feel that this big billionaire bastard received more votes because he grabbed this reporter by the neck and threw him down and then pummeled him.

    And of course this bastard won the day.


    When the reporter sues the victim of his vitrial; with the victim's his elbow problem....

    f one has personal liability insurance, the law says that the insurance company does not have to pay if the insured acted intentionally as the insured hurt some victim/claimant.

    And further, the insurance company will not provide an attorney to defend the bastard.

    And further, the new member of Congress shall be dogged to the end of time. And his time runs out next year.



    Not very often but...



    Hello Arthur, how have you been?  The Gianforte election is just another in a long line of repulsive people elected to represent us. Sigh. 

    Thanks for this post & thread, TMac. Hope you're not talking to walls and some see the error of "fighting back with the same".

    I would hope I wasn't talking to walls, but even if I am alone in this, and I'm okay with it, I feel like at least I made a new connection in my brain and I'm stretching it again, that feels good. Good to see you back at Dag. I don't stop by every day, but I hadn't seen you here in a long time and it is really good to have you back.

    Thanks for the kind words, TM. Coming back has become quickly addictive because everyone here is great with the brain stretch thing, I've actually got to get some discipline like you, cut down a bit and apply the brain back to making some money....

    Are there examples where he Spectacle went away quietly? Women's suffrage, outlawing lynching, fighting Jim Crow, Vietnam, etc. all required direct confrontation. Where is the evidence that voters cheering a candidate assaulting a reporter actually care if people they view as enemies want to have a rational conversation. Shouldn't the pressure be on the Conservative leadership to stop the nonsense?

    That isn't the Spectacle though rm, we aren't just talking about politics here and specific issues, what we are talking about is the phenomena that evolved with the digital age, the one that celebrates outrageousness over substance. Trump himself and everyone he surrounds himself with they have no policies beyond enriching themselves and their families in perpetuity. Have you read Debord?


    With the achievement of economic abundance, the concentrated result of social labor becomes visible, subjecting all reality to the appearances that are now that labor’s primary product. Capital is no longer the invisible center governing the production process; as it accumulates, it spreads to the ends of the earth in the form of tangible objects. The entire expanse of society is its portrait.

     That above is what we are talking about and while the 1% has freedom, they travel, they make hundreds of millions or billions a year, money most people can never imagine, but if one participates in the Spectacle, i.e. calling reporters snowflakes and threatening them, calling them weak when one is assaulted, etc, it just all part of the Spectacle and often times the Spectacle pays off in real terms, money. That is exactly how Trump got here, no one who voted for him actually has policies they want to be enacted or even people they want to oppress, they want access to that money and they will try as hard as they can to get their share. 


    Once society discovers that it depends on the economy, the economy in fact depends on the society. When the subterranean power of the economy grew to the point of visible domination, it lost its power. The economic Id must be replaced by the I. This subject can only arise out of society, that is, out of the struggle within society. Its existence depends on the outcome of the class struggle that is both product and producer of the economic foundation of history.

    "The economic Id must be replaced by the I"  let that sink in and then tell me that this hasn't happened. My mom pins it on Reagan, he ushered in the I in society and we just moved quickly from that point. Fox, Rush, etc, they rely on the I, you are screwing me, and seemingly all the whacko's like Alex Jones et al, profit from being nothing more than a Spectacle, they have no substance, they found their way to make money. Period. They do not care if they have to be racist or sexist to get their part or at least what they see as their part. 


    The end of the history of culture manifests itself in two opposing forms: the project of culture’s self-transcendence within total history, and its preservation as a dead object for spectacular contemplation. The first tendency has linked its fate to social critique, the second to the defense of class power.

    Resist, but know what you are resisting.

    (Bockquotes are both from Debord's, Society of the Spectacle, Chapter 2., 1967)

    tmccarthy ... Just for you...

    Originally posted as:

    The Calm Practical Approach To The Issues and Debates
    In The Coming Months and Years
    @ TPM Hive Dec 4, 2016

    Very good points here...

    Required Reading George Lakoff on the election  By Tom Wright @TPM HIve

    It is utterly clear that reason is a tool, not a foundation of human consciousness. We are animals that respond to our various behavioral modules and their priorities. Rationales, such as legal reasoning, are good as frames to fit actions within, but we do not act rationally. We act emotionally...

    Thank you @tomwright  @TPM HIve

    To condense George Lakoff's points... (my bold)

    From: Understanding Trump’s Use of Language @ - Aug 19, 2016

    "Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition."


    "...start with values, not policies and facts and numbers."


    "...keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. Keep out of shouting matches. One can speak powerfully without shouting. Obama sets the pace: Civility, values, positivity, good humor, and real empathy are powerful. Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful."


    "Be prepared. You have to understand Trump to stand calmly up to him and those running with him all over the country,,,."

    And . . .

    Why do voters vote their values?  @ - Nov 22, 2016

    "Everyone likes to think of himself or herself as a good person. That means that your moral system is a major part of your identity — who you most deeply are. Voting against your moral identity would be a rejection of self. That is why poor conservatives vote against their material interests. They are voting for their moral world views to dominate, and for public respect for their values."

    To repeat...

    "...start with values, not policies nor facts nor numbers."

    (Bookmark this post for a reminder to stay calm when your blood pressure begins to rise. )




    thanks for this, forgot all about Lakoff.

    also fun to find out that "Tom Wright" is still around TPM, now fighting the good fight as a moderator at The Hive, remember lots of good discussions with him @ the Cafe in its pre-Obamamania incarnation.

    artappraiser... Yes...

    Tom is a very astute individual. He was living out here in Southern California. But here's his latest post from yesterday. I found his description of the local environment there to be very interesting.

    "I have moved east to DC area. Feels like Watergate in the air, and I was living in DC then. Interesting times."

    He's also a very intuitive person.



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