Surrealpolitik: Random Thoughts

Author: John Schoneboom


Quick Summary

Just a place to put any random ideas and connections that occur to me.


There are 25 quotes currently associated with this book.

In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding—in time, in space, in culture. For one cannot even really see one's own exterior and comprehend it as a whole, and no mirrors or photographs can help; our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space, and because they are others. ~Bakhtin, New York Review of Books, June 10, 1993. (page )
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According to Bakhtin, carnival is the context in which distinct individual voices are heard, flourish and interact together. The carnival creates the "threshold" situations where regular conventions are broken or reversed and genuine dialogue becomes possible. The notion of a carnival was Bakhtin's way of describing Dostoevsky's polyphonic style: each individual character is strongly defined, and at the same time the reader witnesses the critical influence of each character upon the other. That is to say, the voices of others are heard by each individual, and each inescapably shapes the character of the other. (page )
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In The Baudrillard Dictionary, there's a discussion of his use of the term 'singularity': "Singularities do not, in a traditional way, offer head-on resistance, but rather constitute 'another universe with another set of rules, which may conceivably get exterminated, but which, at a particular moment, represents an insuperable obstacle for the system itself' (F, 71). The antagonistic nature of a singularity means that it 'is made for a very rapid disappearance' (Paroxysm, 51).

This seems to me in some ways like Badiou's "truth events" allowing glimpses of the system behind the system. All kinds of criticisms of the system are allowable except those that reveal the existence of another universe with another set of rules. This is why 9/11 and JFK are taboo topics. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
Badiou's definition of disaster -- when one believes in the total (totalizing) power of a truth, one of his forms of Evil -- relates to Critical Theory and the Dialectic of Enlightenment in that science/rationality goes wrong and leads to totalitarianism precisely when we allow its truths to assume total proportions. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
Thoughts occurring while reading Baudrillard. Reality isn't real in the sense that any time we apply rationality to something, we limit something essentially limitless. If in reality everything is interconnected and multilayered and has infinite implications, then each time we define it, we are defining part of it and separating it from everything else, which makes it unreal via rationality. Rationality creates unreality. These are conflicting urges, the urge to make something comprehensible by defining it more or less simply so we can understand it, and to get at the heart or essence of a thing by not limiting it to what we can easily encapsulate. The harder we try to understand reality the less we can. Like stars we can only see if we don't look directly at them, reality can only be grasped (if at all) by not trying. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
Baudrillard claims in The Perfect Crime that theories about how real current reality is are not scientific hypotheses because they are "eternally unverifiable". But a better measure of whether a hypothesis is scientific is whether it is falsifiable, not verifiable. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
Baudrillard's problematic of rationality has to do with the disappearance of the world and its replacement by simulacra. For him it's a combination of a fundamental philosophical/ontological issue and a human tendency to quantify, index, describe, account for, perfect, simulate, etc. He has (as of this writing) not addressed the issue of deliberate deception, the deliberate replacement of events and history by falsified versions by the deep state. The rationalist tendency to order things relates also, as in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, to the emergence of totalitarianism which is marked in part by a loss of agency attributable in turn to faith in/fear of/deference to authorities. Besides the problems inherent, this also enables the deception by making us susceptible to it. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real, Simulacra/Illusion]
Baudrillard argues we have all the information, that this is how things become more real than real (hyperreal), and that is why we are defenseless, as we cannot even be alienated. (See p 29 in Perfect Crime) But again, he fails to address deliberate deception, that we are not in possession of all the facts, that the hyperreal can also be less real than real. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real, Fascism]
In Baudrillard, just as any rubbish can be art and any art can be rubbish (Perfect Crime p 31) in the blurred world of hyperreality, any opinion can be adopted or rejected not on its merits but for aesthetic reasons. Like Frankfurt's Bullshit, it's not about true and false, it's about posing, style, image. Again in Perfect Crime p 43, Baudrillard writes about how we prefer "virtual illusion" (over metaphysical illusion and tragic illusion) where things are neither true nor false, good nor evil, etc. Where things are bullshit. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
Calculated mass murder is unimaginable to most of us, so we can only conceive of it as something done by the Other, by definition. We cannot make sense of it or accept as coming from Us. And the Big Other, as "official narrative", is also the Big Us, not the Big Them. This is why people cannot accept that "we" would do such things as 9/11. (page )
Tags: [Revolution, The Other]
Baudrillard may be connectible to Bataille through the concept of myth. Baudrillard seems to mourn the loss of myth, and there's that whole Absence of Myth thing for Bataille. Baudrillard also references the accursed share (Perfect Crime p 60). (page )
Tags: [Myth]
A good bonkworld feature would be a Baudrillard paragraph generator. Some rules could include:
1) Spell 'f' words with a 'ph' e.g. phantasy or philtre
2) Throw in a German word, the longer the better
3) Throw in an italicized French word
4) Two sentences followed by a 'therefore' that doesn't follow at all (page )
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Surrealism, as in Aragon's Paris Peasant and (as I recall) in Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project descriptions, tries to create a "loss of bearings", a deliberate disorientation, taking you away from what's comfortable, so all the automatic responses and implicit rules and rational expectations are suddenly inoperative. See

It occurs to me that this is similar to what we do at Special Training. To get you out of your comfort zone, make you live in the moment, face it courageously without your masks and your bullshit, the only way to achieve authenticity. (page )
Tags: [Surrealism's Promise]
Be sure to check Benjamin's article on Surrealism: In the last pages of this essay, Benjamin argues the need for a new work in the place of the old Surrealism, “a poetic politics,” which extends the insight into the “distinction between metaphor and image” in Aragon’s latest book, Traité du style, “to discover in the space of political action the one hundred percent image space” (page )
Tags: [Surrealism & Politics]
At a history seminar Allan Symons was talking about the 1920s with reference to roots music and a genre he called Sweetheart Murder songs. These are southern songs based on true stories where a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock and the guy murders her. The weird thing is that the premarital sex and the pregnancy get edited out due to some putative combination of enforced brevity of the medium and a certain southern morality in which premarital sex and pregnancy are taboo but the murder of women (now apparently inspired by pure misogyny) is perfectly fine. He theorizes that there is a conservative cultural subtext here imploring women to stay at home and be decent southern belles because if you go out you might get murdered for no reason. For my purposes this can be viewed as the imposition of the rational/Apollonian in an effort to contain the questioning/libidinal/Dionysian. (page )
Tags: [Carnival, Everyday Life, Culture]
Discussions of Operation Gladio, the JFK assassination, and 9/11 and similar "conspiracy" discussions are like the dark matter of public discourse. We know they are there, but we can't find them. They're hidden. It's the one part of oppositional discourse that has not been integrated. Instead it is marginalized. This is why I'm studying it. Find the thing the system cannot tolerate. Show why it should be discussed, discuss why it cannot be discussed. (page )
Tags: [Capitalism]
My basic argument that surrealism's irrationalism helps to counter the uber-rationalism of totalitarianism is countered by Lukacs (see Critical Theory VSI p 66) who argues it's the irrationalism and utopianism that creates the cultural preconditions for fascism. My argument is like Horkheimer and Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment, but there's the backlash where it is argued that Nazism was anything but scientific and rational. It all depends on what one means by scientific and rational and who is doing the defining. Ultimately it seems to me everything depends on moral and ethical values and any fact or principle can be bent to support anyone's preferences. (page )
Tags: [Fascism, Rationality]
Note it was Andre Breton who coined the term "the great refusal" not Marcuse, so that's another good link between surrealism and critical theory. (page )
Tags: [Activism, Surrealism's Promise, Surrealism & Politics]
Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, had a great quote about the time she went before the Spanish Parliament and pointed to the banker who spoke right before she did, and called him a criminal who should be treated as such. Amy Goodman asked her about that moment, that decision, and Colau says: "When I encountered this banker who denied the reality and said that there were no problems in Spain, when there were thousands of families in a dire situation, the least I could do was to denounce these lies and talk to them about what was happening in reality. I think what surprised people more and what generated a media phenomenon after this appearance in the parliament was that someone was talking about reality inside Parliament because, sadly, this was something that had not happened in a long time."

Note this translation is from the audio translation not the text transcript, which I think gets it wrong. The audio version is better: "talking about reality inside Parliament" as opposed to "telling the truth in Parliament". Around minute 44:00 in this video: (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real, Simulacra/Illusion]
Those who turn their critique of fascism into a question of rational vs irrational are missing the point. It is always fundamentally a question of (moral, ethical, political) values. Where Popper puts his faith in rationalism as the way towards equal rights and justice, and dismisses 'irrational' emotions as inevitably tending towards division and violence, he is neither entirely wrong nor entirely right. Rationalism is necessary but not sufficient. There is nothing about rationalism that obviates inequality, violence, repression, genocide if reason dictates one is better off by catering to such unpleasant impulses. What is needed is rationality guided by humanitarian or egalitarian values. And between the two, values and rationality, values are the driving force; rationality is just the tool.

Similarly, where the Frankfurt School critiques the Enlightenment for how it enabled Nazism, and the counter-critique emerges about how the Nazis represent irrationality rather than rationality, again what is really important ultimately are values.

What needs to be highlighted is when repugnant values masquerade as rationalism, as in capitalist realism or fascism. It doesn't much matter whether the repression and violence is rational or irrational. What matters is that it can be exposed for what it is, and cannot pass itself off for what it is not. (page )
Tags: [Surrealism's Promise, Surrealism & Politics, Truth & Real, Simulacra/Illusion, Rationality]
The music-industrial-complex is like the military-industrial-complex:

  1. The faces of the things are just puppets manipulated behind the scenes by power players in the shadows.

  2. It's all about image, playing to the media.

  3. Sometimes the artists start to believe their own hype and get carried away with themselves, often with disastrous results.

  4. The master manipulators work both sides of the game, e.g., the same star-makers that created Backstreet Boys created N'Sync.

  5. Post-9/11 the music industry returned to the "comfort music" of pure pop, only served up with the mean-spiritedness of Simon Cowell. It's a bit like the supposed comfort of Homeland Security, served up with threats and violence against dissent.

  6. Hit-making, like covert operations, is highly compartmentalized, with specialists responsible for discrete aspects of a project, and nobody accountable for the whole.

  7. In both arenas it's easy to get carried away and exaggerate the omnipotence and control of the drivers of events.

If this kind of manipulation is to be expected with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, why not when hundreds of billions are at stake? (page )
Tags: [Culture, Conspiracy]
Some parallels between Robert McKee's theory of story and Alain Badiou's theory of truth. Both hinge on the idea of a breach or a gap between expectations and what happens. For McKee this is where the energy comes from that drives a story: the gap between expectation and what is actually seen or experienced, which presents a challenge to the protagonist to push himself to react as the stakes are raised. Similarly for Badiou, it is a rupture in the fabric of reality, presenting us with something unexpected, that is a truth event to which we must be faithful, that's our challenge, to not brush it off and pretend it didn't happen. (page )
Tags: [Truth & Real]
One difference between writing "in a surrealist mode" and writing fantasy or magical realism is that the latter require suspension of disbelief. The former requires suspension of belief.

Mic drop. (page )
Tags: [Surrealism]
The idea to provoke a crisis of consciousness or to "create disconcerting objects" in order to help man experience and think new things is more or less the left wing analogy to the Shock Doctine of the right wing. See for example quote by Paul Nougé from Cavalier History of Surrealism. (page 1)
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Antitrust law is an arena from which political conspiracy theorizing could learn a few lessons. The possibility, indeed the probability of conspiracy -- that powerful interests will have every incentive to act in a coordinated and illegal fashion for their own benefit -- is one of the cornerstones of antitrust law. A theory of conspiracy in this area is not grounds automatically to smirk condescendingly and presume the theorist is some sort of irrational lunatic or deluded simpleton with an insufficient grasp of the laws of probability. Rather, the law recognizes that conspiracies are one likely outcome and that what is needed are methodologies of determination.

The procedures begin with the observation of "parallel conduct". "Since Matsushita, Circuit Courts have put forward somewhat distinct formulations of the summary judgment test, yet the formal structure of the tests is remarkably consistent across jurisdictions. Each test contains the following elements. First, in a section 1 conspiracy case in which the plaintiff lacks direct evidence of an agreement, the plaintiff must show plus factors in addition to parallel conduct. Plus factors are discussed, circularly, as that class of evidence necessary to transform evidence of parallel conduct into a viable conspiracy case where the plaintiff lacks direct evidence of an agreement. Second, defendants can provide counter-explanations of such evidence to rebut the inference of conspiracy in favor of an inference of independent conduct. Third, the Matsushita/Monsanto 'tends to exclude' metric operates as the final standard by which the entirety of the evidence is evaluated. The totality of the plaintiff's plus factor and parallel conduct evidence must be sufficiently probative that, based on the record at summary judgment, the inference of conspiracy is stronger than the inference of independent conduct.

"A possible formalization of these tests, utilizing the helpful concepts and notation of Bayesian probability, is as follows. Where the plaintiff lacks direct evidence of conspiracy, she must present circumstantial evidence -- plus factors -- that would revise the probability of conspiracy upward from the prior baseline that a fact-finder would infer from mere evidence of parallel conduct. Denote the baseline probability of conspiracy (C) given only evidence of mere parallel conduct (PC) as P(C|PC). A plaintiff must assert at least one plus factor (PF) such that the probability of conspiracy given the parallel conduct and the plus factor is greater than the probability of such conspiracy given the parallel conduct alone

P(C|PC&PF) > P(C|PC).

"That is, the plus factor is any evidence that would make a rational trier of fact revise upward her estimated probability that the defendants engaged in concerted, conspiratorial action. A defendant can rebut the presumption that this evidence is sufficient to show conspiracy by proffering counter-explanations of the evidence to show that the plus factor is equally (or more) consistent with independent conduct.

"To expand this Bayesian formalization, we need to recall that P(C|PC&PF) will be greater than P(C|PC) if and only if the plus factor is the sort of event or activity that is more likely to be present with parallel conduct when and where defendants have formed a conspiracy (C) than where defendants have engaged in independent conduct (I). Note that:

P(C|PC&PF) = [P(PC&PF|C)*P(C)] ÷ [P(PC&PF|C)*P(C) + P(PC&PF|I)*P(I)].

Here P(C) is the prior probability of conspiracy before anything is known about the defendants. It is the likelihood attached to conspiracy without information about the defendants' products or their behavior or the market(s) in which they operate. The prior probability can be based on a legal presumption or on economic logic about the likelihood of conspiracies to form and be stable, or empirical guesses about the frequency of conspiracies across the full panoply of markets. Correspondingly, P(I) is the prior probability of independent conduct, and since under our working definitions C and I are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive states, P(I) = 1 - P(C). To emphasize, because P(I) and P(C) are Bayesian priors, their values are not determined by anything specific to the defendant firms in the case or the particular market at issue.

"Whether or not the plus factor leads us to revise the probability of conspiracy upward from its level given only parallel conduct depends on whether or not the plus factor in combination with parallel conduct is more lily to be associated with conspiratorial or independent action. The second stage of the Matsushita assessment thus allows defendants to contest the relative values...The court then applies the 'tends to exclude' standard as requiring that the totality of the plaintiff's proof rise to a substantive level at which the inference of conspiracy is stronger than the inference of independent conduct.

from (page 224)
Tags: [Rationality, Conspiracy]