Surrealpolitik

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  1. "Contemporary" is defined functionally by those critical people and events that go into forming the public’s presumptions about its immediate past. This idea of "public presumption" is akin to William McNeill's notion of "public myth" but without the negative implication sometimes invoked by the word "myth." Such presumptions are beliefs (1) thought to be true (although not necessarily known to be true with certainty), and (2) shared in common within the relevant political community. The sources for such presumptions are both personal (from direct experience) and vicarious (from books, movies, and myths)...The power of these presumptions derives from their role in facilitating conversation, analysis,and understanding.

    Source: Thinking About Political History. In The Miller Center Report, Vol 14, No. 3, Winter 1999, p. 5
  2. "The trouble is that when they have taken Peyote, they no longer obey us."

    "It is the same with Peyote as it is with everything human. It is a marvelous magnetic and alchemical principle, provided one knows how to take it -- that is to say, in the proper doses and according to the proper gradations. And above all, provided one does not take it at the wrong time or in the wrong place. If after taking Peyote the Indians seem to go mad, it is because they are abusing it in order to reach that point of disorderly intoxication in which the soul is no longer subject to anything. In so doing, it is not you whom they are disobeying but Ciguri itself, for Ciguri is the God of the Prescience of the just, of equilibrium and of self-control. He who has truly imbibed Ciguri, the true meter and measure of Ciguri, MAN and not indeterminate PHANTOM, knows how things are made and he can no longer lose his reason, because it is God who is in his nerves and who guides them.

    Source: The Peyote Dance, p. 28
  3. The Assignment repeatedly demonstrates a concern with the problematics, and especially with the political implications, of literary realism...[T]he critique of realism offered by neo-Marxist critics suggests its repressive potential as a "fantasy of surveillance" corresponding to nineteenth-century developments in psychiatry and urban sociology, a form of policing, enforcing social norms and denying aberrations. Yet in spite of the frequency with which recent critics cite Bakhtin's argument that the realistic novel's dialogism brings about "a destruction of any absolute bonding of ideological meaning to language, which is the defining factor of mythological and magical thought," the critique of realism as allied with official views of reality remains a key point in the postmodernist program (Bakhtin 369).

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 114-115
  4. A history's narrative power is typically linked to how readers relate to the actions of individuals in the history; if readers cannot make a connection to their own lives, then a history may fail to engage them at all. In slightly different terms, readers are drawn to histories that help answer how the choices of individuals in the past either "affect me" or "instruct me."

    Source: Thinking About Political History. In The Miller Center Report, Vol 14, No. 3, Winter 1999, p. 7
  5. At its simplest level, [The Assignment] complicates the terrorist myth by making the identities of the victims as problematic as those of the killers. Nothing is what it seems...Surely few readers can have the moral certainty to decide whether a brain-damaged Vietnam veteran-turned-rapist is a victim or a terrorizer.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 111
  6. 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).

    Source: Random Thoughts, p.
  7. Both spectacles [i.e., the Nuremberg rally and Bush's "mission accomplished" pageant] are examples of the distinctively modern mode of myth creation. They are the self-conscious constructions of visual media. Cinema and television share a common quality of being tyrannical in a specific sense. They are able to block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, of its total impression.

    In a curious but important way these media effects mesh with religious practice. In may Christian religions the believer participates in ceremonies much as the movie or TV watcher takes part in the spectacle presented. In neither case do they participate as the democratic citizen is supposed to do, as actively engaged in decisions and sharing the exercise of power. They participate as communicants in a ceremony prescribed by the masters of the ceremony. Those assembled at Nuremberg or on the USS Abraham Lincoln did not share power with their leaders. Their relationship was thaumaturgical: they were being favored by a wondrous power in a form and at a time of its choosing.

    Source: Democracy Inc., p. 2-3
  8. Brute facts in their speechless horror are the very substance of serious terrorism discourse...AS if to dispel any doubts regarding terrorism's compelling reality, it is routine for writers to begin their journalistic reports or scholarly papers with...dreadful statistics about the innocent victims. These are indeed the hardest of facts, and who can doubt their validity?

    It is difficult to transcend the initial shock over such numbers in order to contemplate the reality behind them. The reporting of innocent travelers killed in the bombing of an airplane is so brutally factual that no possible explanation makes sense; indeed it is so "real" that it requires no frame, so "true" that no interpretation is necessary, so "concrete" that no meaning need be inferred. Its reality appears to belong more to nature than to society. This is discourse so overwhelmed by the "reality effect" of the facts that the very suggestion that it authenticate itself appears ridiculous.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 5
  9. But the reduction of "that which is" to the order of things is not limited to slavery. Slavery is abolished, but we ourselves our aware of the aspects of social life in which man is relegated to the level of things, and we should know that this relegation did not await slavery. From the start, the introduction of labor into the world replaced intimacy, the depth of desire and its free outbreaks, with rational progression, where what matters is no longer the truth of the present moment, but, rather, the subsequent results of operations. The first labor established the world of things, to which the profane world of the Ancients generally corresponds. Once the world of things was posited, man himself became one of the things of this world, at least for the time in which he labored. It is this degradation that man has always tried to escape. In his strange myths, in his cruel rites, man is in search of a lost intimacy from the first.

    Religion is this long effort and this anguished quest: It is always a matter of detaching from the real order, from the poverty of things, and of restoring the divine order.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 57
  10. But why is it that lo real maravilloso becomes such an important category in the consciousness of literary schools from the 1940s onward after 400 years of myth making and magic in Latin American culture? This awakened sensitivity to the magical quality of reality and to the role of myth in history is perhaps an indication of what Ernst Bloch called "non synchronous contradictions" nd is ready-made soil for the sprouting of "dialectical images," in the terminology of Walter Benjamin, for whom (and I quote from Susan Buck-Morss's essay on his notes for his Passagenwerk)

    "the dreaming collective of the recent past appeared as a sleeping giant ready to be awakened by the present generation, and the mythic power of both [the recent and the present generations'] dream states were affirmed, the world re-enchanted, but only in order to break out of history's mythic spell, in fact by reappropriating the power bestowed on the objects of mass culture as utopian dream symbols."

    Source: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, p. 166
  11. Clearly, the poor quality of US journalism, specifically its coverage of military conflicts, is significant here. These failings are produced by four forces, which I have analyzed elsewhere in depth: transformations in the wider political economy of journalism; financialization -- over-reportage of news from the perspective of capital; emotionalization -- the emphasis on news from a feelings point of view; and a chronic dependency on official sources -- the Pentagon as truth-teller (Miller, 2007). But we must equally understand public ignorance in the light of nationalism.

    From chapter: Terrorism and Global Popular Culture by Toby Miller
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 101
  12. Considering the growing debates and expanding legislative definitions of terrorism, it is little wonder that 'terrorism studies' has burgeoned so dramatically over the last three decades. In addition to the increasing number of government-funded institutes, 'terrorology' has taken root in a range of academic fields, including political science, history, sociology, social anthropology, and international relations. The explosion of interest has not resulted in greater consensus, though. As Guelke has argued, 'By the 1990s, the concept of terrorism had become so elastic that there seemed to be virtually no limit to what could be described as terrorism.' This general vagueness of the term is precisely what has led commentators such as the social-anthropologists Zulaika and Douglass to assert that terrorism is 'first and foremost discourse', and that this discourse is largely a matter of 'fictionalization'. As I have argued, though, such a view becomes problematic if the focus on the fictional and the figurative obscures the physical effects of terrorist violence.

    Source: Terrorism and Modern Literature, p. 9
  13. Dürrenmatt shares...a wish to expose the myths and explore the realities of terrorism. An experimental fiction, The Assignment points to the complex reality that lies behind the too-familiar story and suggests as well the actual experience of human beings caught up in terrorist activities. Fragmentation of identity in the novel's unstable world leads to a longing for order that asserts itself in totalitarian politics, fundamentalist religion, and documentary realism, all disciplines, in Foucault's sense, that depend on observation. Suggesting the difficulty of distinguishing between the victims and practitioners of terror, Dürrenmatt undermines the usual story of sinister Islamic terrorists...His manipulations of the myth present terror both as an understandable private response to the conditions of late-twentieth-century life and as a public practice that intensifies and conditions panic.

    Source: Plotting Terror, p. 110
  14. During a conversation published in the early spring of 1948, the interviewer, Aimé Patri, spurred Breton to respond to some of these charges. 'Since your return from the United States, a number of people have been claiming that Surrealism is dead,', Patri proposed. 'Even some of your intimates have reproached you for abandoning the old Surrealist revolutionary spirit'. Of particular confusion in this regard was the Surrealist insistence upon the 'poetic and historical function' of mythic and utopian thinking, investigations that seemed to 'entail an escape towards the past or outside of time' and an obvious affront to the doctrine of historical materialism that the French Stalinists proclaimed that they were exercising. Breton responded by saying that his exposure to the daily functions of myth among the Hopi and the Haitians convinced him that the 'latent' content of waking life could be mobilized s a means of cultural resistance under adverse political and economic conditions.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 268
  15. During the course of the group's relationship with Minotaure, the surrealists shifted their efforts from theorizing the validity of revolutionary violence to finding strategies for deriving paranoiac knowledge. The surrealists, in other words, strove to create an atmosphere that did not so much constitute "revolution" as it was conducive to the knowledge represented obliquely in Nouge and Magritte's drawing: the means -- moral as well as material -- are at hand. By calling surrealism's period of political and epistemological reassessment both a noir period and a period of negation, I have argued, first, that the group's poetic and political aims in 1933 were not limited to revealing irrational forces at work within exterior reality. Rather, the surrealists studied how such forces were organized as coherent structures of motive, causality, and perception in a way that revealed their contiguity with existing structures of political and ideological logic. Second, I maintain that this noir period enabled rather than performed the group's political work. The theoretical experiments of this era provided the basis for a new "morality of revolt" that advocated a massive collective restructuring of society on diverse fronts -- from mental institutions to literature to family structure to political parties -- instead of the merely destructive violence of Aragon's "Red Front."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 197
  16. During the first weeks following the Flight 800's demise, there was a great deal of coverage about evidence of a high-pressure explosive force - either a bomb or a missile - causing the jet to blow up. Indeed, the coverage was going in the same direction as the FBI...But by September, the press was turning around to the new government line, no questions asked...

    What's fascinating about this is how the same paper first prints a series of reports talking about hard evidence the investigators have uncovered indicating that a mechanical failure was unlikely - like "traces of explosives in the passenger cabin," "very heavy damage to the landing gear," and "portions of the fuel tank wreckage" being "virtually unscathed" - and then turns around and writes a subsequent story that says, "The investigators acknowledge that they have no evidence pointing to a mechanical malfunction. Rather, they say, the failure to find proof of a bombing, after more than two months, lends indirect credence to another theory . . ." Indirect credence to another theory!? What happened to the traces of explosives, etc., that you reported about earlier?

    And that's another huge problem for you, the average citizen seeking good information from your newspaper or TV news broadcast. You probably didn't realize until you read this just how mutable the truth is. You probably didn't know that often what is reported today is the truth, until official sources change it later on. The new truth can be the exact opposite of what was reported before, and it will be reported, no questions asked. What was reported before no longer exists or matters because official sources, our nation's ministers of truth, say it doesn't. Go back and read George Orwell's 1984. It'll give you goose bumps.

    From chapter: Kristina Borjesson, Into the Buzzsaw
    Source: Into the Buzzsaw, p. 297-298
  17. Effie, meanwhile, went off the rails, and when this was pointed out to her in so many words, she said 'What rails? Whose rails?'

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 362-363
  18. First, public presumptions can be "generational." They are formed by those pivotal events that become etched in the minds of those who have lived through them. These presumptions can be mapped with relative accuracy. The current set begins in approximately 1933, although the New Deal generation is fading. The Second World War and Vietnam, however, continue to resonate powerfully. Second, particularly "searing" or "molding" events take on "transcendent" importance and, therefore, retain their power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene. In the United States, beliefs about the formation of the nation and the Constitution remain powerful today, as do beliefs about slavery and the Civil War....Third, public presumptions often concern "dramatic stories plucked out of time," such as the Alamo, Pickett's Charge, or the Titanic. Fourth, some public presumptions gain currency because they have a particular resonance for us today, either because they invoke powerful analogies to the present...or because they offer a causal link and seem to explain "why we are the way we are today."

    Source: Thinking About Political History. In The Miller Center Report, Vol 14, No. 3, Winter 1999, p. 6
  19. For I was not, as I liked to think, the indulgent pleasure-loving opposite of the cold rigid Colonel. I was the lie that Empire tells itself when times are easy, he the truth that Empire tells when harsh winds blow. Two sides of imperial rule, no more, no less.

    Source: Waiting for the Barbarians, p. 135
  20. From Timerman's chronicle and texts like Miguel Angel Asturias's El señor presidente it is abundantly clear that cultures of terror are based on and nourished by silence and myth in which the fanatical stress on the mysterious side of the mysterious flourishes by means of rumor and fantasy woven in a dense web of magical realism. It is also clear that the victimizer needs the victim for the purpose of making truth, objectifying the victimizer's fantasies in the discourse of the other. To be sure, the torturer's desire is also prosaic: to acquire information, to act in concert with large-scale economic strategies elaborated by the masters and exigencies of production. Yet equally if not more important is the need to control massive populations through the cultural elaboration of fear.

    Source: Culture of Terror/Space of Death, p. 469
  21. Gift-giving has the virtue of a surpassing of the subject who gives, but in exchange for the object given, the subject appropriates the surpassing: He regards his virtue, that which he had the capacity for, as an asset, as a power that he now possesses. he enriches himself with a contempt for riches, and what he proves to be miserly of is in fact his generosity.

    But he would not be able by himself to acquire a power constituted by a relinquishment of power: IF he destroyed the object in solitude, in silence, no sort of power would result from the act; there would not be anything for the subject but a separation fro power without any compensation. But if he destroys the object in from of another person or if he gives it away, the one who gives has actually acquired, in the other's eyes, the power of giving or destroying...He is rich for having ostentatiously consumed what is wealth only if it is consumed.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 69
  22. Gift-giving is not the only form of potlatch: A rival is challenged by a solemn destruction of riches. In principle, the destruction is offered to the mythical ancestors of the donee; it is little different from a sacrifice. As recently as the nineteenth century a Tlingit chieftain would sometimes go before a rival and cut the throats of slaves in his presence. At the proper time, the destruction was repaid by the killing of a large number of slaves. The Chukchee of the Siberian Northeast have related institutions. They slaughter highly valuable dog teams, for it is necessary for them to startle, to stifle the rival group. The Indians of the Northwest Coast would set fire to their villages or break their canoes to pieces. They have emblazoned copper bars possessing a fictive value (depending on how famous or how old the coppers are): Sometimes these bars are worth a fortune. They throw them into the sea or shatter them.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 68
  23. Harvey wondered again if in real life Job would be satisfied with this plump reward, and doubted it. His tragedy was that of the happy ending.

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 481
  24. How many destabilized governments and rigged elections will it take, from Lebanon, Indonesia, Iran and Vietnam in the 1950s, through Japan, Laos, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Bolivia and Chile in the 1960s, Portugal, Australia and Jamaica in the 1970s, and Central America in the 1980s, before gringos realize that US imperialism is bellicose, bloodthirsty, anti-democratic -- and their responsibility?

    From chapter: Terrorism and Global Popular Culture by Toby Miller
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 101
  25. How to persuade the reader that the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system the very opposite of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the world's foremost exemplar of democracy?

    Source: Democracy Inc., p. xx
  26. I failed to recognize the gods in the street, so weighed down was I by my precarious truth, not realizing that truth of any kind could only reach me in those places to which I had already carried error. I had not understood that myth is above all a reality, and a spiritual necessity, that it is the path of the conscious, its conveyor belt...The man sick with logic: distrusting deified hallucinations, I defied this deification.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 113
  27. If capitalist realism is so seamless, and if current forms of resistance are so hopeless and impotent, where can an effective challenge come from? A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalist realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism's ostensible 'realism' turns out to be nothing of the sort.

    Source: Capitalist Realism, p. 16
  28. If we state simply, for the sake of lucidity, that today's man defines himself by his avidity for myth, and if we add that he defines himself also by the consciousness of not having the power to gain access to the possibility of creating a true myth, we have defined a sort of myth which is the absence of myth...To this first suppression of particularity can be added -- or must be added -- the necessity of an absence of community.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 81
  29. In his paper, "Fearing Fictions," Kendall Walton proposes the notion of "quasi-fear" for that fright experienced when contemplating on a movie or TV screen agents (such as a terrible green slime or the creature from the Black Lagoon) that the viewer knows for certain are only fictional. Then there is the fear of a person afraid of a nonexistent ghost or burglar who are nonetheless "real" since the person believes that they are present. Fear of terrorism is never solely fictional, as in the first case, but is rather of the second type. Still, faced with the extraordinary fact that during one single month 10 million Americans decided to stay at home rather than take an airplane reportedly because of a terrorist threat issued several thousands miles away by a beleaguered dictator, one questions whether they were dissuaded by real feelings of terror or were engaging in some sort of make-believe in which they acted "as if" the threats posed real danger to their lives...

    Terrorism discourse is characterized by the confusion of sign and context provoked by the deadly atrocity of apparently random acts, the impossibility of discriminating reality from make-believe, and text from reader. These strange processes and their mix make terrorism a queer phenomenon. Emptying the sign of its deadly messages seem to be, following Barthes's advice, the best antidote to the experience of terror. And nothing appears to be more damaging to the ghosts and myths of terrorism (for audience and actors alike) than fictionalizing them further to the point that fear dissolves into "as-if" terror.

    The discourse's victory, then, derives from imposing a literal frame of "this is real war," "this is global threat," "this is total terror." Its defeat derives from writing "this is an as-if war," "this is an as-if global threat," "this is make-believe total terror."

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 28-29
  30. In Latin America it has been, by and large, the political function of the Church to harness these images and collective dreams to reactionary social purposes. It is here where Carpentier's sensitivity to myth as the experience of history in the configuration of a changing present is so appropriate and necessary to the development of revolutionary culture and literature. This development stands in relation to the magical realism of popular culture as the only counter-hegemonic force capable of confronting the reactionary usage to which the Church puts that same magical realism in order to mystify it. Yet those who attempt to use such forces run the risk of being used by them. When Carpentier lists reasons why "America is far from having exhausted its wealth of mythologies," we must ask how it is possible to evade their spell...

    Source: Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man, p. 167
  31. In order to constitute itself it was necessary for rationalism to lose the profundity of modes of thought that shackled it. But if we now seek what is possible before us -- all that is possible, whether or not we might have wanted to, we who no longer have any need to construct rational thought, which is effortlessly arranged for us -- we are again able to recognize the profound value of these lost modes of thought.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 64
  32. In reality, none of the a priori assumptions about modern-day America noted above are justified on the known facts. Indeed, by any standard of measure, the reality of modern-day America differs strikingly from what these intellectual elites posit. There is very good evidence to suggest, for example, that the U.S. Government is no longer subject to popular, majoritarian control and is, for all intents and purposes, an unaccountable oligarchy. There is very good evidence that, far from being subject to the control of its citizens, the U.S. Government successfully employs extreme measures to control them. Finally, there is very good evidence that the U.S. Government has an immense ability to keep official crimes hidden from public view for very long periods of time.

    Source: 9/11 As False Flag: Why International Law Must Dare To Care, p. 25-26
  33. In such fashion there is blurring of the line between fact and fiction in ostensibly objective journalistic reporting, particularly since it is the very nature of covert operations and intergovernmental confidentiality to place a premium more upon "deniability" -- a fancy expression for mendacity -- than upon veracity. Hence the novel's plot of intrigue and the journalist's political discourse collapse into the monolithic frame that we have labeled contemporary terrorism discourse.

    This blurring of genres is further exacerbated by the propensity of some journalists and counterterrorism specialists to author terrorism novels (e.g., Robert Moss, Arnaud de Borchgrave, William Buckley Jr., Brian Crozier). Thus, at terrorism conferences it is not uncommon for the experts to discuss their next fiction project!

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 48
  34. In the 9/11 context, the key taboo claim is that the government is not well-intentioned toward its citizenry. Importantly, this claim is no more entertained by the establishment today than the claim that workers lacked equal bargaining power was entertained by the Lochner-era establishment. It is not entertained because it impugns a formidable paradigm, according to which government officials and agencies in the First-World West uniformly and consistently work to advance the welfare of the citizenry at large.

    Source: 9/11 As False Flag: Why International Law Must Dare To Care, p. 23
  35. Job's problem was partly a lack of knowledge. He was without access to any system of study which would point to the reason for his afflictions. He said specifically, "I desire to reason with God," and expected God to come out like a man and state his case...Everybody talked but nobody told him anything about the reason for his sufferings. Not even God when he appeared. Our limitations of knowledge make us puzzle over the cause of suffering, maybe it is the cause of suffering itself...As I say, we are plonked here in the world and nobody but our own kind can tell us anything. It isn't enough. As for the rest, God doesn't tell.'

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 418-419
  36. My main contention is that, however long Americans might domestically be prepared to live with a no-decision regarding the official 9/11 account, international law can no longer tolerate it. The core mission of the premier public international body -- the United Nations -- is to perform its "jury" function of determining whether an act of aggression has occurred...I will argue that officialdom and scholars appear to be in the grip of an intellectual formalism every bit as vise-like as the "Lochner-era Formalism" American law students are taught to frown upon and deride from the very first moment of their studies. This formalism functions in the nature of a gate-keeper, letting some ideas, issues and facts into our minds and (from there) into the public domain, whilst sternly barring others. As for what lies back of this formalism, lending it its terrible strength, two sadly plausible guesses emerge: fear and its handmaiden, corruption.

    Source: 9/11 As False Flag: Why International Law Must Dare To Care, p. 8-9
  37. Now that the Russian bureaucracy has finally succeeded in doing away with the remains of bourgeois property which hampered its rule over the economy...it wants to enjoy its world calmly and to suppress the arbitrary element which had been exerted over it: it denounces the Stalinism of its origin. But the denunciation remains Stalinist, arbitrary, unexplained and continually corrected, because the ideological lie at its origin can never ben revealed...The ideology has no doubt lost the passion of its positive affirmation, but the indifferent triviality which survives still has the repressive function of prohibiting the slightest competition of holding captive the totality of thought. Thus the bureaucracy is bound to an ideology which is no longer believed by anyone. What used to be terrorist has become a laughing matter, but this laughing matter can maintain itself only by preserving, as a last resort, the terrorism it would like to be rid of.

    Source: Society of the Spectacle, p. 110
  38. Once published by an "expert," such findings become part of the scientific discourse and recur throughout the terrorism literature. Nor are such conclusions devoid of political significance when they are recycled as unquestionable dogma by counterterrorism officials. This was the case with Paul Bremer III, Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism, who recapitulated Post's skewed data about the Basques before the Norwegian Atlantic Committee in Oslo, Norway, February 4, 1988. Thus, the highest-ranking US counterterrorism official, in an address ironically entitled "Terrorism: Myths and Reality," employed data that anyone familiar with the Basque case knew to be utterly erroneous. Such a deceptive metaterrorism game, by which experts are allegedly capable of sorting out "reality" from "myth," is an integral part of the entire discourse's strategy of self-authorization.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 55
  39. One might even say that potlatch is the specific manifestation, the meaningful form of luxury. Beyond the archaic forms, luxury has actually retained the functional value of potlatch, creative of rank. Luxury still determines the rank of the one who displays it, and there is no exalted rank that does not require a display. But the petty calculations of those who enjoy luxury are surpassed in every way. In wealth, what shines through the defects extends the brilliance of the sun and provokes passion. It is not what is imagined by those who have reduced it to their poverty; it is the return of life's immensity to the truth of exuberance. This truth destroys those who have taken it for what it is not; the least that one can say is that the present forms of wealth make a shambles and a human mockery of those who think they own it. In this respect, present-day society is huge counterfeit, where this truth of wealth has underhandedly slipped into extreme poverty. The true luxury and the real potlatch of our times falls to the poverty-stricken, that is, to the individual who lies down and scoffs. A genuine luxury requires the complete contempt for riches, the somber indifference of the individual who refuses work and makes his life on the one hand an infinitely ruined splendor, and on the other, a silent insult to the laborious lie of the rich. Beyond a military exploitation, a religious mystification and a capitalist misappropriation, henceforth no one can rediscover the meaning of wealth, the explosiveness that it heralds, unless it is in the splendor of rags and the somber challenge of indifference. One might say, finally, that the lie destines life's exuberance to revolt.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 76-77
  40. Our text is a mythography of Terror, particularly as experienced by the American and European publics through images of both near and distant terrorists. We treat this terrorism discourse as an enabling fiction -- the monster is there, but what are its features?

    We write not as terrorism experts producing a "study," but rather as essayists perplexed by the terrorist phantasmagoria. We have elsewhere described the evolution of "terrorism" within the specific political context of Basque society. Although our locus standi is the ethnographic encounter, this essay is not intended as an ethnography. Rather, it deals centrally with the academic fashioning, media consumption, and political manipulation of terrorism discourse.

    Do we perhaps, beyond its fables and follies, pretend to know what terrorism is? No. Indeed, we question the very possibility of defining, and thereby giving a satisfactory account of, the facts categorized as terrorism. Our goal is not to elaborate yet another typology, but rather to redirect the study of terrorism into an examination of the very discourse in which it is couched. As is the case with other discourses of the postmodern world we inhabit, the terrorist signifiers are free-floating, and their meanings derive from language itself. The connections between discourse and reality therefore become open to question. The challenge is not to learn the ultimate "truth" about terrorism, but to delve into the rhetorical bases of its powerful representations; not to insist that myths are often used to "fool" audiences, but rather to scrutinize the concrete discursive practices whereby this transpires.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. x-xi
  41. Perhaps the absence of myth is the ground that seems so stable beneath my feet, yet gives way without warning...'Night is also a sun', and the absence of myth is also a myth: the coldest, the purest, the only true myth.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 48
  42. Recent developments in literary criticism and historiography have made it easier for us to assume that, rather than viewing fiction as the antithesis of fact, they share a porous boundary. A perspective closer to Vico's philosophy [e.g. mythology as the first science] would argue that there is a generic consciousness that combines both the literally true and the fictive; such a view regards "the true and the fabulous as simply different ways of signifying the relationship of the human consciousness to the world." Yet the discourse on terrorism is so traumatized by brutal events that any postulation of continuity between fact and fable regarding it may appear frivolously scandalous. Is the attempt to do so a denial of atrocity? Hardly. Nevertheless, to our minds the really challenging issues have more to do with the ways in which the popular media, scholarly treatises, and official reports employ narrative strategies to anticipate, relate, and interpret such events. Once having contemplated the horror of the mute fact, whether real or anticipated, it is essential to realize that its true impact, far beyond the shattered bodies or buildings, resonates in the halls of the collective imagination.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 10-11
  43. The "formalism" of which the Justices [of the Lochner-era] stood accused by their critics -- both at the time and since -- amounted to an intellectual insulation from "social facts" that kept fro from appreciating the realities of modern industrial relations. Those realities fatefully disadvantaged workers in contract negotiations with their would-be employers and rendered talk of "freedom of contract" cruelly farcical. By refusing to gaze upon those realities and draw the necessary inferences from them in assessing protective legislation, the Justices were, in Roscoe Pound's colorful words, behaving as "[l]egal monks who pass their lives in an atmosphere of pure law, from which every worldly and human element is excluded."...Strangely enough, those judges were both virulently anti-empirical and empirical at one and the same time. Their anti-empiricism was dictated by an abstract, and highly ideological, laissez-faire-era assumption about the nature of equality in modern industrial relations...The only way [pro-labor] legislation might be justified was on narrow "health" grounds: If the legislature could show that its law was intended only to safeguard the physical health of the workers, rather than to paternalistically interfere in the industrial bargaining relationship itself, the law might pass constitutional muster. Interestingly, it was at this point in their reasoning that the Lochner-era judges suddenly became very interested in the real world. For on the question of health dangers, they were not content merely to accept the say-so of the legislature (i.e. they were not prepared to be bound by the mere "forms" of legislative assurances), but instead insisted on reviewing the health facts for themselves in an exercise of quasi-de novo review.

    Source: 9/11 As False Flag: Why International Law Must Dare To Care, p. 20-22
  44. The Aztecs, about whom I will speak first, are poles apart from us morally. As a civilization is judged by its works, their civilization seems wretched to us. They used writings and were versed in astronomy, but all their important undertakings were useless: Their science of architecture enabled them to construct pyramids on top of which they immolated human beings.

    Their world view is singularly and diametrically opposed to the activity-oriented perspective that we have. Consumption loomed just as large in their thinking as production does in ours. They were just as concerned about sacrificing as we are about working.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 46
  45. The catastrophic results of such discursive connections -- i.e., the tragic clash between the apocalyptic philosophy of the Branch Davidians and the apocalyptic response of the law enforcement authorities, followed by a commemorative reenactment of Waco in Oklahoma City, mediated by a Hollywood movie and Pierce's paranoid, antigovernment tale that in turn was informed by earlier anti-Communist narratives -- lend special urgency to Vico's dictum that mythology is the first science.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 10
  46. The eagerness of the parties in conflicts to censor journalists as well as to attack them physically are important obstacles to reporting from conflict areas. Statistics indicate that journalists are often targets in recent wars. According to the IFJ, more than 1,100 journalists and media employees were killed on duty between 1995 and 2007. The number of journalists killed worldwide has risen 244 percent between 2002 and 2007. Statistically speaking, journalists were ten times more likely than any of the 250,000 American and British soldiers to be killed in Iraq, which has been the most dangerous place to work as a journalist in recent years. A vast majority of the journalists killed in Iraq were not embedded. The embedded journalists were protected physically by being in military units and, more importantly, their presence was regarded as beneficial by the military. Are other journalists and media facilities perceived to be legitimate targets in modern warfare?

    From chapter: Wikileaks and War Laws by Stig A. Nohrstedt and Rune Ottosen
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 216
  47. The hyperbolic as I have described it is not limited to 11 September, though; rather, it is an index of the way that performative aspects of discourse generally, and figurative language in particular, can affect the nature of material events, just as material events can modulate discursive practices.

    Source: Terrorism and Modern Literature, p. 6
  48. The only valid excess was one that went beyond the bounds, and one whose consumption appeared worthy of the gods. This was the price men paid to escape their downfall and remove the weight introduced in them by the avarice and cold calculation of the real order.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 61
  49. The political mockery of dismissing entire countries as "terrorists" or "terrorist sympathizers" -- by abolishing their long and rich histories, by debasing their languages, by stigmatizing their representatives, by sheer self-deception -- is premised on the intellectual banality of constructing a discourse around a word that inevitably imposes conceptual reification within a tabooed context.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 23-24
  50. The value of warfare in Mexican society cannot mislead us: It was not a military society. Religion remained the obvious key to its workings. If the Aztecs must be situated, they belong among the warrior societies, in which pure, uncalculated violence and the ostentatious forms of combat held sway. The reasoned organization of war and conquest as unknown to them. A truly military society is a venture society, for which war means a development of power, an orderly progression of empire. It is a relatively mild society; it makes a custom of the rational principles of enterprise, whose purpose is given in the future, and it excludes the madness of sacrifice. There is nothing more contrary to military organization than these squanderings of wealth represented by hecatombs of slaves.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 54-55
  51. There is a point at which the lives of madmen and murderers become so bizarre that we question whether the discourse about them "starts to function in a field where it qualifies as literature." Oedipus with his crimes or Faust with his devilish pact remain as emblematic literary figures of their times; "The Terrorist" and his apocalyptic threat might perhaps endure as an archetype of the late twentieth century's postmodern military simulacrum. [Quoted part is from Alexander Neill's 1991 "Fear, Fiction, and Make-Believe", The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49:47-56.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. 63
  52. There was at least room for suspicion that the threat of terrorism was being used as a pretext for striking down disagreeable regimes.

    Source: Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction, p. 135
  53. Virtual or real, national or transnational, state-sponsored or executed by small groups, terrorism in all its forms remains a central concern for contemporary societies.

    From chapter: Introduction
    Source: Media & Terrorism: Global Perspectives, p. 1
  54. We are baffled by the use and abuse of terrorism discourse; we voice our skepticism. After many years of writing on the issues of political violence, our misgivings about the intellectual and moral values of the concept of terrorism have only increased. We are bothered by the referential invalidity, the rhetorical circularity that is all too characteristic of much that goes on under the rubric of "terrorism." It is the reality-making power of the discourse itself that most concerns us -- its capacity to blend the media's sensational stories, old mythical stereotypes, and a burning sense of moral wrath. Once something that is called "terrorism" -- no matter how loosely it is defined -- becomes established in the public mind, "counterterrorism" is seemingly the only prudent course of action. Indeed, at present there is a veritable counterterrorism industry that encompasses the media, the arts, academia, and to be sure, the policy makers of most of the world's governments.

    Source: Terror and Taboo, p. ix
  55. We in Washington are accustomed to the petty scandals of Washington politics. However, there is another category of offenses, described by the French poet Andre Chenier as "les crimes puissants qui font trembler les lois," crimes so great that they make the laws themselves tremble.

    [W]hen the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986, both the Congress and the national mainstream media pulled up short. . . . The laws trembled at the prospect of a political trial that threatened to shatter the compact of trust between the rulers and the ruled, a compact that was the foundation upon which the very law itself rested.

    The lesson was clear: accountability declines as the magnitude of the crime and the power of those charged increase.

    Source: October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, p.
  56. What did she so desire to escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: and what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of forces, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disc jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?

    Source: The Crying of Lot 49, p. 11
  57. [Fourier's] Theory of the Four Movements offers detailed accounts of life following this cataclysmic transmogrification. The auroras of the northern and southern circumpolar regions become more active and more frequent, eventually expanding to link together like the rings of Saturn and filling the earth's skies with rippling curtains of colour, light and heat. Over time, the outer edge of the earth's aurora-ring will extend to the corona of the sun, and the ensuing radiation will trigger a magical change in the natural world -- animals will learn to play musical instruments, stars will copulate and spray us all with their sexual fluids, weather patterns will shift, new moons begin to revolve the earth, and the chemical composition of the world's oceans change to 'aigresel', a tart, potable liquid. Even the human body mutates under the rays of the 'northern crown' as human beings overcome the need for sleep and grow taller. Humans will also sprout an 'archibras' ('ancient arm'), a prehensile tail with a sensory organ at its tip that will act as a fifth limb and enable one 'to swim as fast as a fish', to 'reach a branch twelve feet high', to triple one's natural leaping velocity, and to form a revolving, conelike 'inverted parachute by means of which one can fall from a considerable height without risking more than a bruise'.

    From chapter: Attacks of the Fantastic, Donald LaCoss
    Source: Surrealism, Politics and Culture, p. 274-275
  58. [From an end-of-chapter footnote #14] Literary texts are understood as being a central part of that "larger symbolic order by which a culture imagines its relation to the conditions of its existence" (Matus 5) and as a space "in which shared anxieties and tensions are articulated and symbolically addressed" (ibid. 7). Moreover, through active reader participation, literature renders imagination 'livable' -- the fictional world can actually be experienced and can therefore be 'tested' and criticized -- so that the literary text becomes a privileged space of simulation where the work on a cultural imaginary can take place (cf. Fluck).

    From chapter: Stefan Horlacher, Taboo, Transgression, and Literature: An Introduction
    Source: Taboo and Transgression in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present, p. 19
  59. [I]t is critical to note that the surrealists' reaction to the Noziere affair is different from their relation to Violette herself as either a body, a subject, or the object of their attention. In the book she remains very much a set of signifiers, never photographed or represented "realistically" like Germaine Berton or the Papin sisters, insofar as her features, appearance, and physicality are not fixed in or by a single image...Breton explains this process of transmutation into myth in the book's first lines, as a function of the media spectacle Violette has become:

    All the world's curtains drawn before your eyes
    It's pointless for them
    Before their mirror gasping for breath
    To stretch the jinxed bow of ancestry and posterity
    You no longer resemble anyone living or dead
    Mythological to the tips of your fingernails

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 209
  60. [Mosse] would write that 'the chief problem facing any historian is to capture the irrational by an exercise of the rational mind.' This would mean that scholarly work 'has to operate with the instruments of rationality in a so largely irrational world, it has to recapture the irrational rationally and thus it is in danger of getting it wrong.' At the same time, he corrected the common tendency to associate the irrational or non-rational with nihilism tout court, for fascism was not nihilistic but had its own peculiar value system.

    A key aspect of this approach was to understand the nature and use of myth, something that the non-theoretical Mosse did very well in empirical and eclectic terms, though he never developed any broad concept of myth. His own approach he called, not inaccurately, 'a history of perceptions.' In a letter of 1990, Emilio Gentile pointed out to Mosse that he employed the concept of myth in two different ways, which one is tempted to term the authentic and the inauthentic, the first involving the 'irruption of the sacred' in a living faith, the second a cynical propaganda manipulation. Mosse acknowledged this problem without hesitation, saying that "I have never been able to get a satisfactory definition of myth, and as far back as 1960 Leonardo Olschki . . . told me that my use of myth was very problematic. Myth is both artificial and a sincerely held belief. I don’t think that they exclude each other."

    Source: George L. Mosse and Walter Laqueur on the History of Fascism, p. 754
  61. [T]he still unbroken interest of a broad public in this...topic of taboo [is] paradoxical because the concept of taboo has become a taboo in itself, because taboo is generally accepted as drawing the fundamental borders between the sacred and the profane, whereas a critical glance shows that these borders can scarcely be drawn unproblematically, since not only the concept of taboo as such, but also the concept of the sacred turns out to be polysemic, if not aporetic. While in most civilized societies the use of violence is strongly tabooed, it nevertheless remains inherently if not inextricably bound up with the notion of taboo. This does not only hold true for the cultivating potential inherent to relinquishing drives, but, as Christoph Türcke argues, "above all for the fatuousness of a specific ban on thinking that individuals en masse subject themselves to in order to be able to endure a society they did not choose themselves and yet allow to remain as it is.".

    From chapter: Stefan Horlacher, Taboo, Transgression, and Literature: An Introduction
    Source: Taboo and Transgression in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present, p. 4-5
  62. [W]hen surrealism put forward the idea of myth, it was in response to a vibrant nostalgia in the mind of contemporary peoples, which has been alive not only since Nietzsche but even since German Romanticism. Moreover, religion is constituted by the connection to the myth of rituals. No one, then, can fail to know that the clearest certainty of surrealism is to manage to rediscover the attitudes of mind that allowed primitive man to combine in ritual and, more precisely, to find in ritual the most incisive and tangible forms of poetic life...it is simply a question of exploring all that can be explored by man, it is a question of reconstituting all that was fundamental to man before human nature had been enslaved by the necessity for technical work.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 75