Discover more from 📡 by Mike Rugnetta
📡 – 2023-02-10
Shit for brains
CW: ongoing scatological metaphor ahead
At the end of the 📚 section, you’ll find an open-access paper looking at the work of Marina [née and The Diamonds] as an illustration of communication around leftist politics. It’s a great read, and the details make it worth your focus - but the gist is this: it’s often discussed how the neoliberal media ecosystem handily subsumes anti-capitalist criticisms. Which is to say, significant communication about the shortcomings of our economic mode have to participate heavily in that economic mode to attain that significance, thus constraining how radical the message can be. Even in cases where the message is sufficiently radical (whatever that means) this doesn’t take it outside the dominant economic framework, thus potentially blunting its impact. See, for example, this newsletter and Substack.
The piece argues for a slightly different viewpoint – outlining how the neoliberal media ecosystem can handily host radical messaging, so long as it retains particular hallmarks, e.g. emphasis on the individual. The paper details what this means for Marina’s work, but those involved in leftist politics (especially the Online™ variety) will see a familiar portrait: the work of painting oneself as occupying a hyperinformed, hypermoral position in comparison to others. The pursuit of such a position is fraught, to say the least. Our choices are so heavily constrained by the infrastructure of hyper-commercialization that to be a perfectly moral actor, one must retreat to the woods homesteader-style to isolate from any and all unethical consumption, and by doing so likely abandon the leftist political goal of coalition-building amongst the lower-classes. To play, and attempt to win, the purity game leads only to the most conservative forms of individualism.
But I digress from the point I want to make - one involving Žižek, of all people. I don’t know that it’s advisable to be learning lessons from Žižek of late – but there’s something he wrote a while back that stuck with me, and I think is a helpful frame for this sort of thing.
Žižek talks about how we all ‘eat from the trashcan of ideology’. He’s extending, in a way, Lacan’s toilet metaphor: these items manage our filth, take it away from us, hide it … but they don’t destroy it. We send our filth away, box it up, as a way of pretending it doesn’t exist, but it’s in our homes, and out there in the world, making it stinky and dirty. The filth we make continually, increasingly impacts our lives. Put your garbage in the can, put the bag on the street, take the bag to the landfill … the microplastics are still in your blood.
We are all filthy. There’s no avoiding it. We all swim in a shitty river. I have often viewed leftist politics as a way of accepting, and processing this: where conservatism insists on the de-facto purity (or maybe: sanctity) of the individual and their choices – thus absolving them of broader, societal responsibility – and neoliberal-left politics insists on a moral practice that helps the individual attain purity – thus absolving them from collaborating with people “beneath” them – further left politics can view all individuals as subject to shared material circumstances which constrain us and are designed to appear outside of our control, though they are not… at least, not with a critical mass of class allies engaged in united, direct action.
Admitting you are a piece of shit – as Žižek does (and rightfully so) – isn’t the victim mentality that many people assign to the further- and far-left. It is simply a statement of fact given the circumstances: we are digested and extruded again by a global culture obsessed with profit, growth, shareholders, and free (read: completely unrestrained) enterprise. We have its stink all over us. And of course we do: who spends all day digging around the dump, and doesn’t leave smelling of garbage?
The good news is that while we might all be pieces of shit … that’s also the stuff they use to encourage new growth 🌱 You just need a lot of it.
Anyway! On to the stuff I liked.
I mentioned this one was en route in a previous newsletter, but it’s finally here. Sam at Debacle Records has spun up a more-electronics-focused imprint called YIELD and Paurl Walsh’s Pocket Worlds is the inaugural release. It’s a banger - dark, textural, and varied. Highly recommend.
Same same but different: I also mentioned this a few issues ago, and here it is. I’m a big fan of both Loscil and Lawrence English so it makes sense I find the team-up strong. A whole record made from a short recording of a large, Australian pipe organ. Great headphone music.
Deathprod is a longtime practitioner of what I think you’d now call “dark ambient”. He’s been working in the genre since the early 90s – including in the weird-electronics supergroup “Supersilent”, and in a well regarded partnership with Biosphere. His compositions are a great study in restraint, and detail. I’m also very drawn to his process, which doesn’t involve the latest synth gadgets, but strange, obscure, cheap, hard to use, difficult to control bits and bobs. The restraints clearly serve him well.
Holy Other released an all timer of a record, Held, in 2012. Though Held is likely one of my most listened records of all time, I somehow missed the release of Lieve in 2021. Highly, highly recommended stuff - for fans of Burial, lo-fi beats, grime, dark ambient, etc etc.
Wildly underappreciated, under-discussed ambient artist Chris Herbert has a few BC exclusive releases up as Pay What You Wish, and apparently a few more things in the works.
INA GRM has just posted the Oeuvres of musique concrete pioneer and Weird Music Grand-père Pierre Schaeffer, most well known for his tape experiments, and sound collages. Schaeffer spent his career looking for the musical (or, at least, the sonically meaningful) in the sounds of everyday life. Not exactly easy listening, given both its age and its conceptual nature, but the absolute ground floor of a lot of what we take for granted today (sampling, for one; field recording, another).
THE WORST THING WE READ THIS WEEK: Why Is the New York Times So Obsessed With Trans Kids?
The Times expended more than 6,000 words on puberty blockers, raising the specter that, despite doctors’ widespread agreement that the treatment makes life better for adolescents who identify as trans, the drugs carry the risk of reducing bone density. Bone density loss is also one of the many side effects of isotretinoin, more famous as Accutane, which has been used to alleviate severe acne in millions of teenagers over the decades, even though it comes with a list of potential psychological and physical harms up to and including its ability to cause severe birth defects.
Any medical decision involves some sort of judgment about how to balance competing sets of risks. Yet the Times isn’t publishing multiple front-page stories about whether teens are endangering their bodies by getting treated for cystic acne. The Times‘ gender-treatment coverage insists, through its sheer bulk and repetition, that there is something particularly wrong about the way young people who identify as trans are receiving care. The difficult and complicated decisions that these patients are making in consultation with their doctors are being made wrongly, if not wrongfully. If the Times didn’t believe this, as an institution, the coverage would make no sense.
I Don’t Want The Badge – Addressing Classical Music’s Burnout Addiction
…the institutional model of classical music education engineers us to fall in love with burnout from the very beginning. By stepping into a conservatory, we are encouraged to maintain packed-out schedules, work beyond the point of exhaustion, and have pristine social media accounts showcasing our highlight reel of repertoire in order to justify our choice in career. Even though I love what I do immensely, I have been conditioned to feel anxious when my days aren’t jam-packed as a result of what I was taught in school: that learning the notes on the page takes priority over my rest.
Did Air Pollution Inspire Impressionism?
While the two scientists present a compelling case (they found a 61% correlation rate between smog and contrast in the paintings), they also note other hypotheses that could explain Turner and Monet’s artistic shift toward blurred lines and white hues: Was Turner painting bright skies because his society was becoming more and more interested in astronomy? Was Monet blurring his landscapes because he was copying Turner’s style, or because his vision became impaired as he got older?
Cities Are Spending More to Brutalize Homeless People Than It Would Cost to House Them
There is considerable evidence, however, that cities are in fact spending far more on criminalizing and displacing homeless people than it would cost to provide them with a place to live. The likes of sweeps, incarceration, enforcement of anti-panhandling laws, and hostile architecture, after all, come with a hefty price tag estimated to be more than $31,000 per person, per year. The annual cost of providing supportive housing, according to the same analysis, is $10,051 — or less than a third the cost of criminalization.
Can Community Programs Help Slow the Rise in Violence?
The funding has created an opportunity for community violence intervention to become a significant feature of the public safety landscape. But the challenges are still immense. The programs have only a few years to prove that they deserve lasting support after the federal money runs out. Public safety agencies that until recently consisted of a handful of people are having to expand rapidly to oversee millions in spending, building a new civic infrastructure in a matter of months. And the evidence for how well some of the programs work is mixed and sometimes elusive, not least because it’s hard to measure crimes that never happen. “The money creates a problem,” Eddie Woods said. “Everybody’s an intervention specialist now.”
Purging the neoliberal poison? Marina Diamandis and the cultural grammar of popular left politics
This article enquires into the discursive and affective texture of the intersections of popular culture and left/feminist politics in the current Anglo-American context. It does this primarily via a contextual reading of the recent work of Welsh/Greek pop singer Marina Diamandis (who performs under the mononym ‘Marina’), especially her 2021 single entitled ‘Purge the Poison’. Building on Sarah Banet-Weiser’s work on popular feminism, I suggest that recent years have seen the emergence within popular and commercial culture of a ‘popular left politics’ which includes – but is not limited to – popular feminism. I argue that Marina’s work – as well as its reception from fans and critics – can help us identify several constitutive features of what I call the cultural grammar of popular left politics. These include, first, a conception of knowledge as linked to the revelation of truth grounded in identity and experience; second, a projection of purity and perfectionism of self and, third, a projection of complicity onto others. I further suggest – drawing in particular on Akane Kanai’s recent work – that these features of the cultural grammar of popular left politics are testament to the centrality of neoliberalism in shaping the discursive, affective and subjective character of even ostensibly anti-neoliberal forms of politics and culture. Furthermore, in contrast to the familiar argument that neoliberalism blunts or co-opts oppositional discourses, I suggest that, in the current conjuncture, explicitly and overtly anti-neoliberal discourses are sometimes afforded a certain cachet and visibility, so long as the cultural grammar they adopt aligns with the competitive and individualistic logics of neoliberal hegemony.
Speaking of! On Weds night myself, Jenn and Shannon from Fun City did a What Am I Lookin’ At Here stream. WAILAH is a trivia game devised by Shannon that has one, very simple rule: Shannon shows us pictures of things, and we have to say what we’re looking at. Simple! And yet, somehow, deranged. The VOD will be up on Twitch for a little bit, after which it’ll be available for Fun City patrons only.
That’s all I got for now. Hope y’all had a good week, and liked enough of this 📡 – if you did, consider tellin’yer’pals ✌️ See you soon!