“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Murdoch and the security entertainment complex

I’m amused by this article on Murdoch's cowtowing to Maggie Thatcher in order to get his greasy paws on the Times.

I'm amused, that is, that the current scandals in England are going back so far.

The major things afoot in the gimcrack world of the Great Moderation, constructed out of “free” trade (a curious beast, which was hatched when the standard elite policy of lowering taxes on businessmen suddenly generated metaphysical wings), the worldwide exchange of democracy for mucho security against the high improbability of terrorist mugging, and the other trade of all things on heaven and earth (including the future composition of the atmosphere) for a little comfort in the present overshadow the comical Murdoch scandals. Still, the timing shows that God, or Nemesis, really is the greatest stand up comedian.  What better con-fuckup than this one, involving the heavily bribed police, celebrities, and the lizard like fourth estate?

During the twentieth century, the penetration of the media into the private sphere was seen by a few illuminés in world historic terms – I’m pointing at you,  Joseph Goebbels and J. Edgar Hoover. 
During the great period of the capitalist transformation in the nineteenth century, the police forces were reformed and re-distributed, and attracted reforms in turn: such as the enumeration of houses in cities, which, in France, was first adopted as a military measure in garrison towns, and then, under Fouche, Napoleon’s minister of security, began to be imposed on Paris (and reached other cities later – in the 1840s, Lyon still did not have a strong address system). Wherever Napoleon’s armies went, police were sure to follow – and as Napoleon’s armies pulled back and Napoleon was defeated, the police – at least as a structure – stayed. In England, the creation of a modern police force followed in the 1820s. The bourgeoisie, of course, loved their police – but the masses still loved their legendary robbers, and still fought the police daily in the street, where police work was largely directed towards disciplining the mass of drunks, whiners, perverts, whores, and anarchists that constituted the class laborieuse et dangereuse.

The rise of the police force not only as the quotidian tool of social repression, but as a form of entertainment that allowed us all to enjoy social repression, may have been prehended in the nineteenth century, but its existence is one of the striking features of the twentieth century. The folkloric rival of the Sheriff of Nottingham hasn’t had a chance. Social repression comes with the contract, of course. If you aren’t going to have revolution and whatever comes next – every example of which, in the twentieth century, created monster police – then the contract of capital in its neo-liberal phase (Section 4., line 10a) specifies that you will have entertainment police, a police force that oscillates between radio show (and then tv show) and the SWAT team. A police force that seizes the attention of those whose own livelihoods radically decrease in entertainment value the more life is wholly oriented towards them.  Ultimately, police are just extremely inefficient regulators – regulators of the last resort – and the paradox is that, in a culture in which regulation has become a bad word and the regulator treated as a menace to all the good things that would flow if we just let the capitalist genius of the entrepreneur flourish, the most inefficient regulators have been given carte blanche not only by the governing elite (who has a contempt for the police that emerges every time the police union negotiates salaries), but by the middle class that identifies with them. And even if they don’t identify with them, they cannot get enough entertainment value from them. In the security-entertainment complex, this comes to the same thing.

The security-entertainment complex doesn’t, of course, just run through tv. As prison replaced apartheid in the U.S., the last redoubt against the Sheriff of Sherwood Forest became hip-hop, which absorbed the  flyting and bragging songs of traditional culture in a kind of parody of resistance – a parody because it was a resistance connected to no political force whatsoever, for the political force had been vacuumed up neatly by the security-entertainment complex. Within the vacuum, the counter-force that emerges knows itself through the entertainment that leads it on a merry eternal return of the same, from money to prison and back, endlessly.

It is funny to watch the tabloids and the police in the UK bump into each other, as one of the tools of the glorious Bush-Blair-Berlusconi era comes as undone as the former two’s hopeless war on terrorism. Not that the war won’t continue to roll on – and not that anti-democratic cretinization, now in its baroque stage, won’t also continue to roll on. Popular demand, you know. The slogan under which the democracies, where the massive self-destructive machine is switched to on, is still as pertinent as when James Chance and the Contortions first posed it in the Reagan era: “Take out all the garbage that's in your brain ... Why don't you try being stupid instead of smart?”       

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