Thursday, November 29, 2007

Night of the Lone Wolves

Night of the Lone Wolves by Adam Elkus is a short essay concerning the super-empowered individuals. Their actions are amplified by the Verbal World created by media. The author muses that destruction sells:
Perhaps, as European philosopher Slavoj Zizek theorized, we are unwittingly addicted to images of our own destruction. We eagerly devour disaster movies and thrillers that prominently feature events that range from catastrophic to world-ending. In a time of global terrorism and insurgency, one of the most popular television shows is Fox’s 24, which regularly shows fictionalized usage of biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons. Disturbingly enough, before 9/11 several popular thrillers had plotlines featuring planes being flown into buildings.

Why do we vicariously crave these experiences? Zizek himself echoes Freud in claiming that they tap into deep anxieties and fears we unconsciously hold about modernity—that we fear that underneath the edifice of ordered, secure civilization is little more than raw savagery that threatens to consume us at any given moment. One can also point to the long tradition of apocalyptic literature and mythology, common to all faiths and cultures, and note that these media displays tap into a deep, subconscious cultural nerve honed over the centuries.
I would agree. Mass media has better enabled quick creation of Verbal Worlds. In the past, such trends took years and even centuries to mature. In a 24 hour news cycle, mass viewing can lead to the formation of a particular world view. The events of late 2001 are an obvious example. The population was glued to the television and therefore the experience was immediate yet shared vicariously. Decadence is a catalyst for such processes that corrupt solidarity in the name of unity. A criminal only succeeds beyond physical terms if we let him.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated By Gore Vidal

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated by Gore Vidal is a short book I came across at the semi-annual library book sale. At first, I expected it to be the usual screed about US Imperialism, and it certainly touched upon it, but a large portion of the book concerns Timothy McVeigh. As someone who had friends injured (both physically and psychologically) by the Oklahoma City explosion, I am not inclined toward any particular sympathy. However, as I read the essay, I could see why he did what he did. Although intelligent, he was a simpleton, or a potential "useful idiot." He was certainly not a white supremacist (especially considering he was disgusted at killing Arabs), although he took certain ideas from their "literature." Since his only other option was life in a box, I also agree that he probably opted for "state-assisted suicide" rather than rat out any accomplices or confederates. The government gave him no incentive to talk. I also concur with the conclusion that the Federal Government does not really want to publicly admit the extent of the hatred directed at it.[1] I would also add that media, having financial stakes, certainly do not generally want to pursue this thread either. The power structure would rather leave murders free than shed light on its increasing illegitimacy.

[1] And it isn't just the far, far right wing by any means.