Category: culture

Moral panic



The removal of the Waterhouse painting in Manchester is only another black eye for the city.

I recall a time when religious fundamentalists sought to ban photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe because they were “pornographic.”

Only a philistine would demand that art be moral.

Curators need the “creator” to sell to a public which is addicted to celebrity. They’ve sold the artist, not the art, for a long time. Hence, they remain behind the times intellectually for financial reasons.

The public, and the journalists who write for it, were never were educated in semiotics, structuralism, modernist aesthetics, etc., to begin with.

I remember when a man of the cloth called for the “extermination” of the Sex Pistols.

Arendt never apologised for being Heidegger’s lover.

Althusser murdered his wife, but no one demanded the New Left Review close its shop.

Épater la bourgeoisie.


On reflection

Mr Trump is a failed President even before taking office. He’ll have to answer to the pitchforks and patarini who elected him sooner than later.

His fate depends on what motivated the Deplorables. If they were motivated by the prospect of manufacturing jobs returning in mass numbers to the US, their belief will be shattered. However, if they were motivated by identity politics (i.e., misogyny, xenophobia, and racism), then their faith will be fully rewarded by Trump’s Presidency.

There are pockets of reason and enlightenment strewn over a landscape of inbred cultural backwardness. Radical cosmopolitans must stand up and say no to ignorance and cultural backwardness, whenever and wherever revanchist populism surfaces.


There are also historical precedents for the Trump-Farage-Le Pen-Petry phenomenon. Cola Di Rienzo, Savonarola, Luther, and Robespierre attempted to channel the anger of “the people” towards various political ends. They lost control (the Peasants’ War of 1524-25, which was crushed with Luther’s help) and lost their lives in the process (Savonarola, Cola, and Robespierre).

Ordinary world

Along with foraging, scavenging will become a way of life under the twin forces of Brexit and Trump.

Fighting gentrification is like fighting gravity.

From an aesthetic point of view, film has no necessary relationship to reality. The more unreal film is, the better.

Bob Dylan will not attend the Nobel Prize ceremony. Perhaps he has nothing to say.


The Trump campaign circus is now the Trump transition team circus.

The Nigel Farage power play came to naught. He remains a right-wing carpetbagger sans portfolio.

The new antisemitism will be directed by the alt-right guru who will take up residence in the office of the White House chief of staff.

Rather than “draining the swamp,” Mr Trump is filling it with his own children and his childish twitter bile.

The (failed) materialist assumption is that people who flock to Farage, Le Pen, Trump, and the AfD are responding to economic conditions. In reality, they are simply politicizing the culture of hate that is part of their traditional way of life. What needs rethinking is the state of the cultural conflict between the forces of reason and enlightenment and the forces of petty revanchism and historical backwardness.


It is a platitude that art becomes caviar to the general when the reality it imitates no longer corresponds even roughly to the reality recognized by the general. Even then, however, the resentment the common man may feel is silenced by the awe in which he stands of the patrons of this art. Only when he becomes dissatisfied with the social order they administer does he begin to criticize their culture. Then the plebian finds courage for the first time to voice his opinions openly. Every man, from the Tammany alderman to the Austrian house-painter, finds that he is entitled to his opinion. Most often this resentment toward culture is to be found where the dissatisfaction with society is a reactionary dissatisfaction which expresses itself in revivalism and puritanism, and latest of all, in fascism. Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture. In the name of godliness or the blood’s health, in the name of simple ways and solid virtues, the statue-smashing commences.

Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” [1939], The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume 1: Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 18-19.