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The Algorithm of the Locust

So a couple of evenings ago, while on my way to an interview for an article Mr. Sawai of Kyodo News (Japan's AP-style newswire service) was writing about us Murkans flocking to Canada (in which I was joined by Operative Sugar), I read the following passage from Deleuze & Guattari:

...Totalitarianism is quintessentially conservative. Fascism, on the other hand, involves a war machine. When fascism builds itself a totalitarian State, it is not in the sense of a State army taking power, but of a war machine taking over the State. A bizarre remark by Virilio puts us on the trail: in fascism, the State is far less totalitarian than it is suicidal. There is in fascism a realized nihilism...Suicide is presented not as a punishment but as the crowning glory of the death of others. One can always say that it is just a matter of foggy talk and ideology, nothing but ideology. But that is not true. The insufficiency of economic and political definitions of fascism does not simply imply a need to tack on vague, so-called ideological determinations. We prefer to follow Faye's inquiry into the precise formulation of Nazi statements, which are just as much in evidence in politics and economics as in the most absurd of conversations. They always contain the "stupid and repugnant" cry, Long live death!, even at the economic level, where the arms expansion replaces growth in consumption and where investment veers from the means of production toward the means of destruction. Paul Virilio's analysis strikes us as entirely correct in defining fascism not by the notion of the totalitarian State but by the notion of the suicidal State: so-called total war seems less a State undertaking than an undertaking of a war machine that appropriates the State and channels into it a flow of absolute war whose only possible outcome is the suicide of the State itself.

After reading this my thoughts instantly veered to the recidivistic war and corporate criminals that comprise BushCo (Murka's embodiment of Deleuze's war machine), their all-too-easy appropriation of the State, their gleeful abandonment of various international treaties, their devotion to transferring funds from citizens to weapons manufacturers and war profiteers, and their religious longing for universal death The Rapture.

I had prepared earlier for my meeting with Mr. Sawai by reviewing a bit of the history of the rise of Hirohito and was struck, once again, by the algorithm that overreaching hegemonic societies in decline all follow: the structure is always the same, though garnished by each culture's distinctive flavor.

For instance, one of the first things a revolutionary power does is appropriate a culture's signifiers and re-connotes them. Thus, the nazis appropriated Teutonic myths and symbols and turned them into eugenic exceptionalism, Japan's militarists appropriated Shinto and turned it into a religion of the State, and now Murka's republicans have appropriated the mantras 'freedom' and 'democracy' to brand them as Murka's evangelizing manifest destiny to justify any crime. And, of course, a culture's most potent symbols reside in its religious heritage. Hence Hirohito and Hitler were both deified as their respective culture's god incarnate; hence Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBush and the republicans have a direct line to Jesus, and Murka is God's chosen land.

Those who appropriate a culture's signifiers understand the decisive power images have over a culture, for they know that whoever owns the Image, whoever owns the Word, owns the culture. ("Propaganda must be made directly by words and images, not by writing." — Joseph Goebbels.) That's why any who challenge the revolutionary power's appropriation of the symbols and their re-connotation — wherein they alone have a monopoly on their meaning — are painted as traitors.

Another of the many things they all have in common is the unstoppable, monomaniacal yearning to assume complete power no matter what the cost. This is due to the zealous, manichean certitude of their beliefs. And in their single-minded pursuit of power — wherein their political strategy is simply one of total war (of which Rove is a brilliant tactician) — they employ any means necessary to obtain it, particularly if it involves machinations in which they themselves are the architects behind a crisis that can cement their own power by blaming it on a convenient foe; doing so provides an excellent pretext to clamp down on their own citizen's freedoms by assuming the role of protector as they play on their fears like a violin.

During our interview with Mr. Sawai — a journalist for a newswire — I was surprised how often he and his assistant nodded in seeming understanding or agreement whenever Operative Sugar or myself stated obvious truths about Murka. (Of course by 'obvious truths' I mean unspoken, way-out-there heretical assertions one never hears in Murkan media.) He asked me at one point if I thought things would get better for America...what I saw in America's future. I said that once a revolutionary power assumes control they do not willingly leave, and that's why I knew they would 'win' the 2004 'election,' and that's why I left Murka to come to Canada over a year ago. I said America's future was one of great suffering, both in what it inflicts on others as well as itself...I said that once a society embarks on such a path it crosses a threshold of no return, and that there is no possibility of improvement...not, that is, until its inevitable cataclysm.

Though initially taken aback by such a statement, after a moment's pause he seemed to me to nod in understanding of this...

Goya: Burial of the Sardine

Have you ever seen the movie The Day of the Locust? It's one of those unseen major masterpieces from the 70s, and it's as close to Shakespearean greatness as any Hollywood movie ever got. It's practically a phenomenological exploration of the American soul that, like all great art, transcends its cultural particularities to attain universal significance. It's also probably the only movie that ever deeply terrified me — the riot scene at the end captures something innately ugly in the human predicament like nothing else I know. Maybe you should go out and rent or buy it...