Dirty little secret: ‘Think tanks’ are among top culprits in media disinformation crisis

By Bryan McDonald
Source

5be58dd1dda4c8511a8b459e.jpg

Most consumers are unaware off the mainstream media’s dirty little secret. Think tanks are increasingly taking advantage of tight news budgets to influence the press agenda in favour of their sponsors.

Decades ago, these outfits generally operated as policy advisories. Although, some were comfortably enumerated ‘retirement homes’ for distinguished public servants or intellectuals. However, in modern times, they have become indistinguishable from lobbying firms. With the budgets to match.

On the Russia (and broader Eastern European) beat, think tank influence is becoming increasingly dangerous and malign. And it’s leading to a crisis in journalistic standards which nobody wants to acknowledge.

Two cases this week highlight the malaise.

Right now, Hungary and Ukraine are embroiled in a standoff regarding the rights of ethnic Hungarians in the latter country. The disagreement is entirely local, with roots in the 20th century carving-up of Budapest’s territory after it found itself on the losing side in both World Wars. As a result, lands were dispersed into other nations – former Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.

There are tensions, to varying degrees, between Hungary and pretty much all the successor states housing its lost diaspora. Especially since nationalist Viktor Orban started handing out passports to compatriots stranded on foreign soil.

Until recently, most of the focus was on disagreements with Slovakia, but now attention has switched to Ukraine.

Let’s be clear. This is a mess of Kiev’s making. In a bid to appease “patriotic” fundamentalists, it began moves towards restrictive language laws, which has especially alienated the small band of Hungarian speakers on its western frontier.

Predictably, Budapest rushed in to defend its “people,” and now we have a nasty little imbroglio with headbangers on both sides entrenched.

One thing it’s not about is Russia. But Western media, egged on by think tank “experts,” keeps banging this drum. And here is a case in point this week.

The Los Angeles Times sent a correspondent to Uzhgorod, a Ukrainian border city. And rather than merely report from the ground, the writer spends a huge amount of the article referring to Russia and intimating that Orban is operating in lock-step with Moscow. Which is laughable to anybody who understands the Hungarian PM’s political methods. And which reeks of disinformation.

And who is used to “back up” these assertions? Only one Peter Kreko, “director of the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest think tank,” who is concerned Orban’s moves “help Russia hamper Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”

Now, isn’t that a weird sort of thing for a Hungarian analyst to be worrying about? Well, it wouldn’t be if the LA Times were transparent and disclosed Kreko’s funding. You see, here’s who bankrolls the “Political Capital Institute, a Budapest think tank.”

  • Institute of Modern Russia (plaything of disgraced former 90’s oligarch and Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky)
  • National Endowment For Democracy (a US neoconservative outlet dedicated to “regime change” and promoting a pro-US outlook in Eastern Europe, whose chair has dubbed Ukraine “the big prize”)
  • Open Society (George Soros, who needs no introduction)

And here are some of the “most important international and domestic professional partners” of the Political Capital Institute:

  • Atlantic Council (NATO’s propaganda wing)
  • European Values (a Soros-funded Prague lobby group which smeared hundreds of European public figures as useful idiots for appearing on RT. Including Jeremy Corbyn and Stephen Fry).
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States (proprietors of the infamous ‘Hamilton 68’ dashboard)

Thus, the agendas at play are pretty clear here. Yet, the LA Times keeps its readers ignorant of Kreko’s paymasters. Which is especially interesting when you see RT, almost always, referred to as “the Kremlin-funded Russia Today,” or some version thereof, when described in Western media. And this is fine, because it’s true, but when the same rules don’t apply across the board, the bias is obvious.

The second case comes courtesy of “the Rupert Murdoch controlled Times of London” (see what I did there?) This week, it alleged around 75,000 Russians in London alone are Kremlin informants. All based on an “investigation” by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a neoconservative pressure group which seems to have successfully mounted a reverse takeover of the once venerable paper. With its leader writer, for instance, being a founding signatory of the concern.

Anyway, HJS, apparently based on a mere 16 interviews, with unnamed sources, concluded that “between a quarter and a half of Russian expats were, or have been informants.” And the Times splashed it.

However, it “clarified,” with comment from an anonymous “dissident,”how, in reality, “it was about half.” So, only the 32,500 odd ‘agents’ in London then. Which, if true, would means the walls of the Russian Embassy would have to be made from elastic to house the amount of handlers required to keep tabs on their information sources.

Look, it’s hardly a secret that standards at the Times are low. After all, the main foreign affairs columnist, Edward Lucas, is literally funded by US weapons manufacturers.

No, this is not a joke. Lucas is employed as a lobbyist at CEPA, a Washington and Warsaw-based outfit, which promotes the arms manufacturer’s agenda in Central and Eastern Europe. Namely, the likes of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, FireEye, and Bell Helicopters.

Of course, The Times doesn’t make this conflict of interests clear to its readers. Another example of how the ‘think tank’ tail is wagging the mainstream media dog these days.

Advertisements

What Gaza Wants

By Haidar Eid
Source

150518_ASH_00-19.jpg

Four years after the Israeli Occupation Forces perpetrated a massacre upon the population of Gaza, the third in 5 years, Apartheid Israel insists on committing more crimes by targeting civilians protesting peacefully every Friday demanding their internationally-sanctioned right of return to the towns and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. The latest round of Israeli war crimes has resulted in a new massacre ; since March 30th, when the first of a series of marches took place at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip, more than 220 innocent civilians, including 34 children and 5 women, have been murdered brutally as they demonstrated non-violently.  More than 2000 have been injured, some very critically. (Statistics taken from Gaza Ministry if Health)

As we, Palestinians of Gaza, embark on our long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; instead, we request that the citizens of the world oppose these ongoing deadly crimes. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. We have also come to the conclusion that only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the implementation of international law and put an end to Israel’s unprecedented impunity. Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of White South Africa. Nelson Mandela, before his eminent death, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst other anti-apartheid activists, did not not only describe Israel’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

In fact, we expect people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law. It did work last century; without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We need to be more specific about our demands. We want civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression.

It has become crystal clear that the international conspiracy of silence towards the incremental genocide taking place against the 2 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

It is high-time that the international community demand that the rogue State of Israel, a state that has violated every single international law one can think of, end its medieval siege of Gaza and compensate for the destruction of life and infrastructure that it has visited upon the Palestinian people. But this should also come within a package of demands to be made by all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations that still believe in the rule of law and basic human rights:

  • An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since 2006 for voting against the fictional two-state solution and the Oslo Accords;
  • The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention;
  • That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be provided with material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing at the hands of Israeli Occupation Forces;
  • Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the IOF in the Gaza Strip;
  • Holding  Israeli generals  and leaders accountable for  war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the civilians of Gaza;

And

  • An end to occupation, Apartheid, and other war crimes committed by Israel.

Why is that too much to ask? Were the anti-apartheid and Civil Rights movements too demanding for calling for an end to all forms of racism, institutional and otherwise ? And was the international community wrong to heed their calls?

Save Us From Freedom!

5g-400x226.jpg

Freedom once meant something significant for mankind. It meant ceasing to be suppressed and imprisoned  by forces that endeavour to control one. The word ‘freedom’ conjured a sense of what it means, at least to some degree, to be master of one’s destiny. 

No longer, For many, the new freedom has almost exactly the opposite meaning. Now freedom seems to be associated with having someone or something doing one’s thinking for one; making decisions that one ‘can’t be bothered ‘or doesn’t want to make – and ultimately completely relieving one from responsibility for taking any form of action other than that which enriches one’s pocket and/or one’s narcissist fantasies.

In fact this new ‘freedom’ offers – on a plate – to the oppressor of old the chance to continue his mastery of human control, but under a new guise: the tantalising deception of ‘convenience’. That which by-passes the need for mental creative effort (and often physical effort as well) and which makes one believe that there is really little or nothing to do, other than tap a keyboard and get tuned into a cyberspace virtual reality world which will do the rest for one. This is the great tempter of our age. The one that lays out the red carpet for a soft and sly take-over by nothing less than a non human artificial intelligence.

Yes, the superficial seductiveness of the pocket sized touch-button technology of passivity, the human masters of which sit in Silicon Valley and the Pentagon, monitoring every move that serves the further advancement of the totalitarian central control system.

Did slavery ever loose its grip on the great mass of humanity? Have the majority always preferred the safety of mindlessness to the dangers of consciousness? Was Shakespear on the button when he had Hamlet pose the infamous rhetorical question “To be or not to be, that is the question”. 

It’s a question that should never need to be posed, and indeed never would have been had some  betrayal of the divine nature of humanity not taken place, many thousands of years ago. After all, the spirit infused natural make-up of mankind provided all the fuel needed to guide us on our way to the full expression of our potentiality as universal beings. Yet a deviation from this path was  established, and has proved to be a strong opiate – a formidable obstacle to the spiritual evolution of our species.

This deviation has gone so far, that nothing less than the ability to retain the power of independent thought is now at stake.

I believe that the social psychologist and historian Erich Fromm was right when he said that ‘fear of freedom’ was symptomatic in allowing the rise of fascism before World War Two, and that the prevailing sense of insecurity in society generally leads people to abandon hard won civil liberties, for the seeming safety and protection of ‘strong leadership’, regardless of its motives.

But this type of capitulation plays directly into the hands of those who are best at manipulating peoples’ fears; bringing about an ever greater centralisation of power in the hands of the despotic few. A deft slight of hand, that while giving the impression of providing security and leadership, is actually a calculated step towards the totalitarian take-over.

So now, in 2018/19, we find a similar sense of insecurity gripping those who have repeatedly put their faith in cardboard cut-out political figureheads who subsequently proved to be puppets of the deep state and masters of deception. Public confidence in the old way of doing politics has steadily drained away, leaving a vacuum which has not been filled. However, the deep state has long anticipated the arrival of such a vacuum, and indeed has been instrumental in creating just the right circumstances for it. 

The present state of malaise, shaped as it is by a growing despair in ‘human leadership’, offers a particularly ripe moment for bringing forward a ‘non human’ technological solution to the organisation of day to day life on this planet. An increasing dependence on artificial intelligence as a ‘solution’ to human failings.

Day to day solutions to the needs of society were once dealt with on the ground, at community level, in a hands-on approach which drew on a shared pool of human skills, inventiveness and judgement. But such qualities have been all too quickly sidelined and the responsibilities that went with them are now left in the hands of those who design computer programmes, algorithms and internet control systems. Systems that side-step collective human participation altogether, in favour of the absolute predictability and complete uniformity of artificial intelligence. 

It is the fear of freedom that makes this abdication of human responsibility to the machine such a temptation to large swathes of mankind. Much of humanity still remains conditioned to a parasitical need to be led. Once it becomes apparent that political and corporate leadership is deeply corrupted and not remotely concerned with supporting the health and welfare of human beings, nor the wider environment that supports all living matter, a state of deep insecurity is provoked within society.

A society composed of those who cannot envision what it might mean to take unto themselves a level of actual responsibility for the future and the will to reset the direction of daily life away from dependence upon a figurehead. A figurehead carefully schooled in the art of deception.

People start looking around for someone or something to rely upon to relieve them of their anxiety; when what is actually needed  is a robust examination of their lack of self motivation and the sort of inner responsibility that leads one to face reality square-on. To start taking control of one’s destiny.

However, such a task clearly remains a tall-order for for much of mankind. And so, led by the agenda of the top down control pyramid, people start abdicating their last human survival instincts in favour of the ‘comfort’ of a state of mindlessness. A voluntary paralysis of the power of thought that subsumes the normal activities of the neocortex to the programmed agenda of a robot. A sort of contractual abdication of all normal responsibilities, which denies the God given gift of a working brain and sentient heart in favour of ‘leadership by cyborg’.

Not so long ago, such an act would have been considered unthinkable. It would have been seen as going against the very nature of a humane value system. A state in which people freely express love, laughter, sadness and pain, as well as empathise with animal and plant kingdom surrounding them. 

So,  I am led to consider the likelihood that the deep state’s planned check-mate move in all this, is the role-out of 5G WiFi. 5G, with its determination to create a global satellite array designed to cover every last square inch of the planet, is designed to power this take-over by artificial intelligence. The AI take-over, in turn, is designed to power the global control system, and the global control system is to power the ‘internet of things’ which in turn is to power the ‘internet of everything’. It may not be in exactly that order, but what emerges are the preplanned moves of the final take-over. The New World Order. 

Remember Dr Faustus, selling his soul to the devil?  Well, the price of this 21st century contract is the end of humanity as we know it. People, unnacustomed to questioning or challenging authority and fearful of the vacuum created by its absence, want to create robots so they can be led by them; thus opening the way to perpetual slavery to a synthetic god of their own creation, while abandoning altogether any ties with the God who created them.

We stand right at the edge of such an abys. But paradoxically, it comes at a time of rapid awakening. Mankind will either fall or be party to the creation of a beautiful new dawn. A quantum expansion in the evolution of the species. Every one of us is faced by the choice of seeking to make manifest our God given attributes or going into denial of their existence. 

The present awakening has, at a critical time, provided us with a new sense of awareness. An awareness of the fact that our future lies in our hands and nobody else’s – and so does the planet’s. So let us have no hesitation in rising to the occasion, by drawing deeply upon our still accessible God given qualities of courage, dignity and perseverance. We have everything it takes to come through – and this is our ultimate test.

By Julian Rose
Source

Facebook Censorship and the Atlantic Council

facebook-socialmedia

By Johnathan Sigrist
Source

Yesterday we witnessed one of the greatest Facebook account and page purges since its formation over a decade ago. In total, 559 pages and 251 personal accounts were instantly removed from the platform, for having “consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior” according to Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity and former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy under Obama. This is but one of similar yet smaller purges that have been unfolding in front of our eyes over the last year, all in the name of fighting “fake news” and so called “Russian propaganda”.

What very few people know though, is that about 5 months ago, Facebook announced that is was officially partnering with the Atlantic Council in the form of an “election partnership […] to prevent [their] service from being abused during elections.” Indeed, the US midterm elections are only a couple of weeks away, so the Atlantic Council and its Digital Forensic Research Lab are now going at it with full force, closing facebook accounts left and right that they personally deem could be fake accounts, or accounts spreading misinformation, based on very shady criterias.

One doesn’t need to look far to understand who the Atlantic Council are and what they stand for : it is a think tank essentially funded by NATO, weapons manufacturers, Middle-Eastern oil-state monarchies, billionaires and different branches of the US military. In short, it has been described as being nothing less than NATO’s unofficial propaganda wing. The Atlantic Council doesn’t shy away from its political intents across the world, which can be seen solely by looking at who sits on its directors board – the crème de la crème when it comes to US neocons & war criminals: Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Frank Carlucci, James A. Baker, R. George P. Shultz, James Woolsey, Leon Panetta, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, and many more.

Needless to say, the Atlantic Council has been on the same side as every single war and conflict engendered by US and NATO imperialism over the last 50 years, and has itself played a role in abusing democratic elections around the world as well as spreading propaganda and misinformation both in home countries and abroad to achieve its political means.

https://atlanticcouncil.org/support/supporters

Hence, it should come as no surprise that when the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab gets down to work weeks before the upcoming midterms, it has little intention of putting a stop to actual disinformation groups and rather silences those that speak a message opposing their ownMany of the pages and accounts taken down have been political (often leftist), anti-war, independent journalists and media outlets that are known to go against the grain of mainstream media outlets. Anti-Media (antimedia.com), a reputable source of independent journalism, saw its page with over 2 million followers taken down overnight with no concrete explanation as to why. Shortly after, Twitter decided to take them down as well, as well as Carey Wedler‘s (editor at Anti-Media) own personal account for literally no reason:

Many of the pages taken down had already been targeted back in 2016 by the McCarthyist webpage PropOrNot, endorsed by the Washington Post, in an effort to arbitrarily mark pages that they believe somehow are connected to Russian propaganda efforts. Already back then it was clear that many of the pages targeted by PropOrNot were leftist, anti-war pages, and almost none of them had anything to do with Russia whatsoever. The Washington Post finally later on retracted their article endorsing PropOrNot, but this didn’t help the fact that these websites had now already been flagged as propaganda by many.

Other pages taken down are The Free Thought Project, also an anti-war critic of establishment politics with around 3.1 million followers on Facebook. RT Reporter Rachel Blevins with 70.000 followers on facebook and investigative journalist Dan Dicks with 350.000 followers also both saw their accounts taken down overnight – both were very critical of mainstream journalism. These are but some of the many accounts affected, with certain accounts on the fringe far right also targeted. Facebook has suffered great pressure lately from Congress for its apparent role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, being blamed for not having taken on enough active measures to fight the spread of fake news. Under such pressure it is not surprising that Facebook chooses to cooperate with a congress-approved think tank – the Atlantic Council – and basically give them free hand to censor as much as they want, in order for themselves to avoid any future heat from the US government. This can be argued as to seriously stain the name of Facebook as an independent social media platform, if it is going to bend down to any unreasonable demands coming from the US government.

In the name of fighting fake news and targeting “inauthentic behavior” and “misleading users”, Facebook has essentially indulged in what was in 1934 Germany called the “Gleichschaltung” of the media – a synchronized out-phasing of dissident voices in the media and a consolidation of political opinions. The internet has traditionally always been a bastion of free speech, and it is hence not surprising that those in power seek to undermine its ability to openly criticize the powerful. The truth does not do them favor, hence they would rather not have it expressed too far and wide – something that the internet has otherwise made possible. Given that censorship is still extremely frowned upon by the general public, doing so (just like when seeking to sell a war) requires the majority of people to approve of it. The fight against fake news and foreign propaganda efforts has done just that : it has given those in power a pretext to openly censor dissident voices all while being praised in the making for so-called “safeguarding western democracies”. More of the same behaviour can be expected from both Facebook and Twitter in the future, and we cannot expect major media outlets like The New York Times,The Washington Post, CNN or MSNBC to stand up against it. After all, many of these censored independent medias are the only actors left who dare hold the mainstream media into account for their role as mere propaganda outlets of the establishment.

Escalating Online Censorship

By Stephen Lendman
Source

In cahoots with dark US forces, anti-social media escalated their war on alternative views – ones conflicting with the official narrative by pulling down hundreds of pages.

The worst is likely yet to come. Censorship in America is the new normal – speech, media and academic freedoms threatened.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other tech giants are allied with Washington against digital democracy, the last frontier of media freedom.

Major print and electronic media operate as press agents for wealth, power, and privilege, suppressing what’s vital to know on issues mattering most.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is increasingly ignored in America and Europe, stating:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

These fundamental rights and values are increasingly eroding. When they’re compromised, so are all others – free societies replaced by totalitarian rule, increasingly where US-led Western societies are heading.

In August, Facebook purged over 650 pages originating in Russia and Iran, falsely calling them malicious accounts engaged in disinformation.

Twitter suspended nearly 300 accounts at the same time, falsely accusing them of involvement in “coordinated manipulation.”

Ahead of November midterm elections, Facebook purged over 800 legitimate pages, including some with millions of followers.

Reliable indymedia sites and others were shut down for “inauthentic behavior” – code language for diverging from the official narrative, truth-telling exposing state-sponsored disinformation and Big Lies.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other tech giants are coordinating censorship tactics to suppress important alternative views on major issues.

They’re using censorship algorithms to greatly diminish traffic on targeted sites. Their so-called war on disinformation, fake news, hate speech, inappropriate language, spamming, and inauthentic behavior is all about blatant censorship, the hallmark of totalitarian rule.

Online censorship so far may be prelude for much worse to come. Maybe all content dark forces in Washington want suppressed will be eliminated – including truth-telling web sites.

America and other Western societies are on a slippery slope toward full-blown tyranny.

A month-ago article discussed the Trump regime’s plan to charge fees for groups wanting to demonstrate on the National Mall, a flagrant First Amendment violation if imposed.

Restricting public demonstrations on sidewalks in front of the White House and at other city locations, including Trump’s Washington hotel, was proposed – another affront to constitutionally protected speech and public assembly.

According to Partnership for Civil Justice Fund executive director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, other US administrations tried curbing Washington protests.

Trump regime hardliners intend “the most bold and consequential overhaul” of First Amendment rights – way beyond where their predecessors dared go with enormous potential consequences.

“There’s never been such a large effort at rewriting these regulations. I don’t think there can be any question that these revisions will have the intent and certainly the effect of stifling the ability of the public to protest.”

Perhaps it’s coming everywhere after enforcing it in the nation’s capital.

Speech, media, academic, and assembly freedoms are threatened in America and other Western societies. 

Greatly curbing or prohibiting them is what tyranny is all about.

Freedom and Other Illusions: Excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”

October 11, 2018

 

Freedom and Other Illusions – Excursions into what used to be called “high versus low culture”
(or, illusions concerning American art) With a view of art as revolt / counter-revolt / et cetera

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 2 of 3 parts

“The counter concept to popular culture is art. Today artistic products are losing the character of spontaneity more and more and are being replaced by the phenomena of popular culture, which are nothing but a manipulated reproduction of reality as it is; and in doing so, popular culture sanctions and glorifies whatever it finds worth echoing. Schopenhauer remarked that music is ‘the world once more.’ This philosophic aphorism throws light on the unbridgeable difference between art and popular culture: it is the difference between an increase in insight through a medium possessing self-sustaining means and mere repetition of given facts with the use of borrowed tools.”

(From: Leo Löwenthal, “Historical Perspectives of Popular Culture”; Originally published in the American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 55, 1950; From Mass Culture – The Popular Arts in America, The Free Press: Glencoe, Illinois, 1957; pp. 49-50.)

Effectively replaced by a continually evolving universal mass (popular) culture of epic, world-historical proportions, things like art, along with the quote-unquote humanities, went out the window ages ago … in spite of all the attention these “timeless” things now get in The Web; attention and “information” much of which terminates in the clouding and neutralization of the potentially liberating, critical and / or independent-thought-inducing aspect of its subject by remaining within the illusion that one is “free” to think whatever one pleases no matter what … that is, as long as one’s thoughts never depart from group-think conditioned reflexes such as the Facebook “like” imperative.

Yet, in a world in which ONLY “information” which can be exploited has a home, this “disappearance of art” I refer to amounts primarily to the predictably logical fate of whatever refuses, due to its own inviolable inner nature, the tyranny of being instrumentalized for whatever cause regardless – those consisting of personal and / or social, political / economic worldviews and thought fallacies … all contained within a neatly pre-digested, gift-wrapped mindset existing for the sole purpose of reinforcing our cultural illusions … another endless circle we apparently can’t ever get enough of buying / buying into.

One crucial thing, in any event, should be remembered: only art worthy of its name disappears rather than submit to any kind of ideological exploitation; while the kind of art which submits and cannot ever find enough ways to compromise with the social order it obediently serves – along with all the personal “likes” it endlessly caters to – only proliferates endlessly, as can be presently observed with unambiguous clarity (that is, if one cares enough to observe such things to begin with).

What I mean here with the phrase “art worthy of its name” is exemplified by what is historically understood as the Romantic movement, a highly complex artistic / literary / philosophical / scientific / social / political phenomenon originating and flourishing during the late 1700’s in Germany, England and France – and lasting until the years immediately before the First World War (while having had its wings prematurely clipped as a consequence of the cataclysmic revolutions occurring in 1848 and affecting over 50 European countries).

But nothing directly resembling the Romantic movement in 19th century Europe ever happened in America (outside of one short-lived interlude to be touched upon below). The mainstream of American art essentially never had a viable relation to something like the tremendous, elemental force informing European Romantic thought and art. Certainly, there were “hot-house” American Romantics and sympathetic followers among a number of American intellectuals and artists during the 19th century as well as later. Nevertheless, the all-embracing, supremely PASSIONATE REVOLT of European Romanticism – which had a profound and lasting impact on all areas of human art, thought and endeavor – all this has remained an essentially a foreign entity in America.

In fact, the terms Romantic / Romanticism eventually acquired the status of pejoratives in America within certain ideologically-motivated “art circles.” The most degrading insult or criticism that my university painting professor could produce was the charge of “Romanticism” or the label “Romantic” … and I even heard the colorful variation, “warmed-over Romanticism”. My painting professor, by the way, was someone I got to know personally far better than I care to contemplate, and was the Director of my school’s Painting Department. This was during the 1970’s … and none of my professor’s anti-Romatic prejudices came out of nowhere.

Did my Romanticism-hating painting professor also paint? He sure did … that is, in a diametrically opposed direction to my own painting, which my professor, being the consistent authoritarian that he was, literally ordered me to stop doing. And, like every authoritarian dictator, my professor had more than his share of loyal acolytes and henchmen: a small army of devoted student teaching assistants who relished their roles of being able to terrorize their fellow painting students using my professor’s ideology – which, naturally, they all devoutly believed and shared with my professor to the utmost fanatical degree. The Painting Department at my school, therefore, had far more in common with a small country under the control of a ruthless dictator than anything having remotely to do with art – let alone any kind of independent thought or “creative activity.”

Then, there were the student Art Discussion Seminars which my professor held in his home during which all art-and-culture-related issues were covered (but closely “moderated” under my professor’s vigilantly censorious eye). The gist of what I took away from these events, however, were my professor’s amateurish attempts in the direction of what he mistook for profoundly “progressive” attitudes concerning “art and culture” … and all of which turned out to bear an uncanny likeness (as I remember realizing at the time) to the “Artistic / Cultural Statements To The Nation” which had come from another “artistically-committed leader” by the name of Adolf Hitler … and to the following statement in particular, in which Hitler proclaims:

“The proof of the endowment of a true artist is always to be found in the fact that his work of art expresses the general will of a period.”

[“expresses” being Hitler’s “refined” way of saying: “unconditionally obeys – or else“]

(From: Adolf Hitler, “House of German Art Dedication Speech”, Munich, July 18, 1937. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Art)

In “the eyes of the world,” (i.e, the myth-based worldview of American culture) my former professor is now remembered as having been entirely “successful” with his art and teaching career. His motto, which he delivered in his lectures with nothing short of missionary zeal amounted to the following: “Either one totally compromises with the ruling order or one fails miserably“; and which he liked to end with: “… and if you don’t believe me and go your own way, don’t ever come back and tell me that I didn’t warn you … so, get all of those Romantic Thoughts out of your heads!”

Therefore, it was only inevitable that my painting professor would eventually score a retrospective exhibition of his work in one of New York’s major art museums (one enjoying – then as now – universal world-wide fame). How do I know this? Because I was there – having unintentionally stumbled into the exhibition’s opening reception around a decade after my university days … you know, where everyone stands around with a drink in their hand … which included a face-to-face encounter with my former painting professor during which his nearby wife pointedly asked me: “Why don’t you congratulate [name withheld] on his exhibit?” (and I even remember feeling guilty for a couple of minutes after she completely nailed me with this question due to my shamelessly rude failure of not immediately clicking my heels and doing so … while my former professor and I only speechlessly stared at one another in total disbelief most likely because we’d been nothing outside complete pains in the ass for one another during my student days) … all occurring after I’d viewed a different exhibit in another part of the museum. But more concerning my former professor a bit later …

Of course, nothing of what I write here is intended as any sort of comprehensive account of American art as a whole – one including music, literature and visual arts, etc. But the following can, with certainty, be said of the historical origins of the American visual art scene (with specific applicability for its New York based capitol). Even though American visual artists studied extensively during the 19th century in various European academies (Europe being where first-rate art schools existed at the time in contrast to America), the work they produced upon returning home was completely tailored to fit the worldview cultivated by the elite financial class then spearheading America’s developing industrial capitalism. The identification of the American artist during this period with the members of a wealthy elite amounted, on one level, to the most expedient career move possible to insure the acquisition of maximum financial and social success within the anglo-American system (while the “have-nots” of American society were summarily regarded as low-class “losers”). Yet, in a far more important sense, this identification also firmly cemented the very notion and practice of art itself within the myth-based system of American culture as a whole – together with the ethos of a thoroughly capitalist worldview – which had already begun to assume the religious character it now possesses.

To make a very long story far shorter than it should be: within the visual arts in America, the only force to ever challenge the mythology which had already engulfed American culture was a counter-mythology pursued by the so-called “New York School of Painting” of the 1940’s–early 1960’s (a very loosely affiliated group of individual New York painters inaccurately described to this day as practitioners of the critically fabricated phenomenon now known as “Abstract Expressionism”).

But when I speak of a “counter-mythology” having been pursued by this loosely affiliated group (i.e., by a few of its members), I’m using a term employed in the writings of the painters themselves: what was called “a new myth” capable of effectively coping with the entirely New Reality which descended upon all of us along with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan (a New Reality which, at the time, was calculatedly brushed aside by both the majority of the American press and the political / intellectual power elite alike as being merely “a natural, inevitable consequence of scientific / technological progress”). The CIA’s ensuing, clandestine Cold War “weaponization” of the work of the members of the New York School of Painting during this period finally signaled, in a profoundly symbolic manner, the complete end of the only major art phenomenon in America to have ever approached the status of a neo-Romantic revolt … and fully consistent with my painting professor’s hatred of whatever he perceived as being even remotely “Romantic.”

In the words of Dwight Macdonald (appearing in Politics, September, 1945): “The Authorities have made valiant attempts to reduce the thing [the atomic bomb] to a human context, where such concepts as Justice, Reason, Progress could be employed.… The flimsiness of these justifications is apparent; any atrocious action, absolutely any one, could be excused on such grounds. For there is really only one possible answer to the problem posed by Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor: if all mankind could realize eternal and complete happiness by torturing to death a single child, would this act be morally justified?… From President Truman down, they emphasized that the Bomb has been produced in the normal, orderly course of scientific experiment, that it is thus simply the latest step in man’s long struggle to control the forces of nature, in a word that it is Progress.

The Bomb is the natural product of the kind of society we have created. It is as easy, normal and unforced an expression of the American Way of Life as electric ice-boxes, banana splits and hydromatic-drive automobiles.

Again, the effort to ‘humanize’ the Bomb by showing how it fits into our normal everyday life also cuts the other way: it reveals how inhuman our normal life has become.”

(From: Dwight Macdonald, “Memoirs of a Revolutionist” (Politics, September, 1945); quoted in: Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art – Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War, 1983. https://academic.oup.com/oaj/article-abstract/7/2/60/1417806); See also the 1974 article by Eva Cockcroft, “Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War” https://scrapaduq.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/modern-art-was-cia-weapon/evacockroft/ )

Comment from Serge Guilbaut: “For Macdonald, the dehumanization of society that made it possible to produce a weapon as sophisticated as the atom bomb, that made it possible for 125,000 workers to participate in a project without knowing the purpose of what they were doing, was incomprehensible. Under such conditions, he maintained, the words ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘progress,’ and ‘science’ no longer meant anything.”

Aside from being overwhelmed by the description of our own hellish reality already laid out by Macdonald in 1945, I was unexpectedly struck by his reference to “hydromatic-drive automobiles” (along with the now quaint-sounding term, “electric ice boxes” which I still heard as a kid). But who in the world remembers such formerly state-of-the-art wheels employing “hydromatic-drive”? (probably not many outside antique car fanatics). More importantly, though, these now-aging critical barbs aimed at the convenience-and-progress obsessions of The American Way of Life alerted me to some very nearby passages from Malevich’s The World as Objectlessness (which would have bitten me, had they been snakes):

“Life as social relations, like a homeless tramp, enters every form of Art and makes it its living space. And convinced, on top of that, that it was the cause of the appearance of that form of Art. After a night’s sleep, it abandons the housing as an unneeded thing, and it turns out that after life empties Art, Art becomes more valuable, it is kept in museums not as an expedient thing but as objectless Art per se, for it had never come from expedient life.

Objectless Art stands without windows or doors, like a spiritual sensation that does not seek prosperity or expeditious things or trade profit of ideas – neither prosperity nor ‘promised lands.’

The art of Moses is the path whose goal is to lead us into the ‘promised land.’ Therefore, he is still building expeditious things and railroad tracks, because the people being led are tired of walking out of ‘Egypt.’ Humanity is already tired of riding in trains, it is learning to fly and will soon soar up, but the ‘promised land’ is not in sight.

That is the reason why Moses was never interested in Art and is not interested now, for most of all he wants to find the ‘promised land.’

Therefore he banishes abstract phenomena and confirms concrete ones. Therefore his life is not in the objectless spirit but only in mathematical calculations of profit. Hence Christ did not come to confirm the expeditious laws of Moses but to annul them, saying ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within us.’ By this he said that there are no paths to promised lands, therefore there is no expeditious railroad, for no one can say that it is located here or some other place, therefore, no one can lay a road to it. Millennia have passed in mankind’s travel, but there is no ‘promised land.’

Despite this historical experience of trying to find the true road to the promised land and attempts to make an expedient object, society is still trying to find it, straining their muscles ever harder, hammering the blade and trying to break through all obstacles, but the blade merely slipped in the air, since there were no obstacles in the space, merely the hallucinations of the imagination.

The historical path shows us that only Art can make phenomena that remain absolute and constant. Everything vanishes and only monuments live for the ages. […]

Up to this point, life developed from two points of view of goodness: the first is material, the grub-economical, and the second is religious; there should have been a third – the point of view of Art, but it was regarded by the other two as an applied phenomenon, whose forms come from the first two. Economic life was not examined from the point of view of Art, because Art was not yet the sun in whose warmth the tavern grub life would flourish.

In fact, Art plays an enormous role in the construction of life and leaves exclusively beautiful forms for millennia. Art has the capability, the technique, which people cannot achieve in a purely material road in the search for the prosperous land. […]

People of the most utilitarian outlook still see the apotheosis of the day in Art – of course, the apotheosis for them is ‘Ivan Petrovich’, [i.e., a representational image / portrait of “John Everyman”] the face embodying life, but still, with the help of Art, that face became the apotheosis. Thus, pure Art is still covered by the face/mask of life, and therefore the form of life that could be unfolded from the point of view of art is not visible.

You would think that the entire mechanical utilitarian world should have a single goal – to free up time for man’s main life: making Art ‘per se,’ to limit the sense of hunger in favor of the sense of Art.

The developing tendency to build task-oriented and expeditious things that try to overcome the sensation of Art should take note of the fact that basically there are no things in the purely utilitarian form, more than ninety-five percent of things come of the plastic sensation.

There is no need to seek convenient and expedient things, for historical experience shows that people were never able to make such things: everything collected now in museums will prove that not a single thing is convenient or achieves its goal. Otherwise, it would not be in museums, so if it once seemed convenient, it only seemed so, and this is now proven by the fact that collected works are inconvenient in daily life, and our contemporary ‘expedient things’ only seem that way, tomorrow will prove that they could not have been convenient. Everything made by Art, however, is beautiful and that will be confirmed by the future: therefore, we only have Art.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014, p. 193.)

In ending this second part, however, I have to admit something. My inclusion of the above passages from Malevich was not only because a line about hydromatic-drive autos reminded me of the technological mind-set discussed by Malevich – one which only advances with ever more break-neck speed as I write this.

I have also included the above passages from Malevich as a demonstration of the fact that there exist vitally important things which do not to amount to what is consumed and desired above all else now: mere “information” to be absorbed at a glance only confirming largely what we already believe in; what we have already concluded that we “know”; something only to be “understood” to the extent that it conforms itself according to whatever our “current understanding” of the world happens to be in the present.

Instead of what one usually gets when one tunes into the usual “information / disinformation source” of one’s choice, Malevich gives us real thoughts in rather sharp contrast to “real” news along with the “fake” variety; thoughts which are highly independent of how the majority – regardless of whatever individual political orientation – thinks and acts in our present. In short, Malevich’s thoughts are totally free from a uniform absence of thought which now only grows by the minute in spite of how “well-meaning” and sincere (or totally mistaken) this conformity doubtless remains. Consequently, what Malevich writes above requires nothing short of a reciprocal thought-effort in return – that is, in distinction to what the choir long already knows by heart and can effortlessly sing in its sleep … along with as much time as it takes to grasp the full meaning conveyed by Malevich … together with adequate patience and perhaps some courage … but with more than anything else, an open mind.

Finally, these thoughts from Malevich are in no way “out-of-date.” To the contrary – while there is nothing really “utopian” in them – they belong among the thoughts which can be said to exist largely in a future tense … that is, if the present can somehow be overcome and relegated once and for all to a dead past having only to do with ignorance, destruction and self-limitation; a present now wearing the highly deceptive mask of “progress”; an emblem only amounting to the perpetual, exclusively fear-motivated idolatry of “results that count” … one only propelling us into a more primitive past tense than can be presently imagined by our group-think instincts, reflexes, and Material Purposes.
——-
About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

Freedom and Other Illusions: American culture as illusory myth

October 08, 2018

by David A. Powell for The Saker Blog

Part 1 of 3 parts

As I began writing this essay, my first thoughts went something like this: I could attempt to write something on the illusion of freedom; on the reasons that this illusion is far worse than an actual absence of freedom. But who would understand me? Who knows today the state which is furthest away from an absence of freedom? … the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes in the following terms:

“It is a good thing to think in prison, but it is not bad in camp either. Because, and this is the main thing, there are no meetings. For ten years you are free from all kinds of meetings! Is that not mountain air? While they openly claim your labor and your body, to the point of exhaustion and even death, the camp keepers do not encroach at all on your thoughts. They do not try to screw down your brains and to fasten them in place. And this results in a sensation of freedom of much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.

No one tries to persuade you to apply for Party membership. No one comes around to squeeze membership dues out of you in voluntary societies. There is no trade union – the same kind of protector of your interests as an official lawyer before a tribunal. And there are no ‘production meetings.’ You cannot be elected to any position. You cannot be appointed some kind of delegate. And the really important thing is … that they cannot compel you to be a propagandist.”

(From: The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. II); Part IV: “The Soul and Barbed Wire”; Chapter 1, “The Ascent”.)

I’d venture to say that few presently know this kind of freedom – that is, outside of those finding themselves still living under one or another of the now antiquated forms of outward repression resembling the one which sent Solzhenitsyn to the Gulag.

For those who live in relative comfort outside of an actual prison in their “Free Country / Free World” there are few immediate reasons to be concerned about an outer “absence of freedom” of the kind experienced by Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag; but even less reason to be seriously concerned about the direct opposite of an outer “absence of freedom” – Solzhenitsyn’s sensation of a freedom “of [a] much greater magnitude than the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level.”

There are far too many things to be built; mouths to be given birth to and fed; appointments to be kept; deadlines to be met; causes to be served; wrongs to be made right; Evil Empires to be established / dismantled by The Forces of Good; and last but not least, worlds to be bettered. All of these things can only be accomplished by running like crazy with one’s feet “on the level” as opposed to what Solzhenitsyn describes as an “ascent”; the direct antithesis of a slogan such as, “The result is what counts!” (a slogan later introduced and explored at some length in Solzhenitsyn’s chapter).

Nevertheless, what Solzhenitsyn pinpoints as thinking (and it might be added: along with education = learning to think) … thinking only gets in the way of what must be ACTED UPON (Period). And everyone living under the spell of our “Free Country / Free World” concept unmistakably understands this – and only this.

This is American culture in the proverbial nutshell: a practical, utilitarian, materialist culture to the core from beginning to end; a culture foremost of action, ambition and initiative; an ever-dynamic wonder of “progress” as little inclined to look forward as it could ever imagine looking backward; a one-way fast lane to the paramount goal of success (and now that the moral dimension has disappeared from the map, often a notion of success at any and all costs).

Success (preeminently of the material kind) – along with an almost exclusive reliance upon what only action-in-the-world-as-it-is can give us – are two of the primary notions which have informed and defined American culture since its beginnings. Notions such as these – almost the moment they go unchallenged – become cultural myths amounting to what might as well be described as articles of religious belief; when they remain invisible; become unthinking reflexes; are taken as natural, unchanging “facts” like the sky above and the ground beneath us; when they are seen as “just the way things are.”

Americans have never really existed outside of what amounts to an invisible, all-inclusive, all-encompassing prison without walls – the outlines of which I have attempted sketch above; what American culture adamately calls “freedom” – but one remaining, in any event, a concept which can be just as well described as an “illusion of freedom.”

… yes, in spite of people like Henry David Thoreau or Herman Melville, author of The Confidence Man – one of the most universally famous, widely read novels in all of literature (excuse my irony) … Thoreau? Melville? … do these names still ring any bells? … I honestly no longer know because during my high school days in the mid-1960’s, I remember reading Thoreau as an extracurricular project (and, yes, I still have the Modern Library edition of Thoreau’s work which I read in my late ‘teens … and I continue to read from it to this day every time I need a barrel of arctic water poured over my brain; a great way to get snapped back into the Real World whenever one begins to have the feeling that one is losing touch with it).

Or Lincoln, the great contemporary of Thoreau and Melville: “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” (From: Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress – Concluding Remarks”; December 1, 1862.) http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/congress.htm

enthrall (1) : To hold in or reduce to slavery (2) : To hold spellbound : charm.

disenthrall : To free from a controlling force or influence.

No writer that I know of has laid out the role of myth within a culture with more clarity and concision than former philosophy professor John Kozy:

“Those who use Internet media to rightly point out the lies and misdeeds of both the government and the propaganda press are indefatigable in their efforts, having, it seems, adopted the maxim that says the truth will set us free. But it won’t! It never has! It never will! The claim is a legendary lie. Too few people care enough about truth for it to matter. Common people are too busy fulfilling instinctive tasks such as acquiring sustenance, shelter, and reproducing to trouble themselves with esoteric questions. So, as any social critic knows, critical efforts fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. The truth, when brought to light, is merely ignored.

In fact, no culture was ever created to discover and disseminate truth. None exists for that purpose today. A culture exists to promote a group’s existence. Cultures are instruments of preservation. Cultures are defined by myths. Unless a culture’s myths are known, its nature cannot be understood.

The myths, although obviously false, are often considered as historical truths, and a culture’s institutions are used to inculcate them. Once inculcated in the minds of people, the myths are almost impossible to expunge. Ears are deafened and eyes are blinded. The social critic is neither heard nor seen. The culture uses its ability to ignore the social critic as a defensive tactic. Ignorance defends the culture, and the culture’s educational institutions promote the ignorance. The institution cannot be divorced form its culture. In any culture, truth is something to be avoided and kept hidden.”

(From: “What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men” http://www.globalresearch.ca/what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/5418308 / http://www.jkozy.com

http://www.jkozy.com/JOHN%20KOZY%20(2017)%20-%20COLLECTED%20WORKS.pdf

There exists – at least, for this writer – far more “truth” in what Kozy writes above than in what all the well-meaning people now endlessly preach to the “already-converted.” As it always was, to “tell the truth” is now synonymous with being ignored; being seen as non-existent. It would appear to be a far more logical strategy to attempt a revolution in thinking which removes the foundations from the cultural myths which do nothing but enslave us; a thought revolutionin the direction of learning to think – that is, in contrast to the usual indoctrination into whatever happens to be momentarily conceived as “correct” thinking and conduct from either the “progressive” or “regressive” viewpoint – it matters not which one.

Genuine education, when understood as “learning to think,” is never something which exclusively depends on better school funding; or, remains only threatened by excessive educational costs. To an equal degree, genuine education also does not necessarily depend upon actually attending a school, or getting an official certification that one is “educated” from a school (a “truth” which Mark Twain was rather fond of pointing out). Independent thinking (thoughtitself) is closely related to what Albert Camus described in his 1957 address “Create Dangerously” as the aim of art: “The aim of art … is not to legislate or to reign supreme, but rather to understand first of all.” It’s a “free agent” with few commitments to anything outside of getting to the bottom of and ultimately understanding unconditionallywhatever it is occupied with quite independent of how one arrives at this understanding; a position which is potentially dangerous for every social / political / economic position in our world of the present; the sole reason Camus used the word “dangerously” in the title of his address to begin with.

Whether “regressive”, “progressive” – or whatever falls in between – practically every viewpoint of the present is primarily interested in “education” only to the extent that it can be made to fit whatever ideological agenda is to be served – while avoiding to lead anyone along the path of the desperately feared “utopian folly” of independent thought (or, “What if those insane pie-in-the-sky ideas actually work? … then, we’re in really big trouble…”).

In light of the above, therefore, most of what goes on in what’s left of public life concerning “education” might accurately be described in these terms: (1) cost cutting and raising for institutional “education” (2) the shedding of crocodile tears over the obvious fact that “no one is ‘educated’ any more because the power elite planned it that way” (for all of which, naturally, there exists more than enough evidence); and typified by the progressive mantra of guarding against losing our so-called “freedoms” and saving “independent media,” etc. (… an unceasing, hypnotic back and forth motion ending with the trance-like, totally paralyzing “increased awareness of what’s happening around us” to which we’re subjected over and over and over with no end in sight).

Essentially, we live in a world where “evil” is fighting “evil” – an image, to the contrary, which our present world would tend to prefer imagining as either existing within some historically removed “Biblical Land of Theology and Superstition”; or, conversely, within the usual futuristic Star Wars scenario “somewhere out there in outer space”; but one simply meaning (in the mundane, everyday reality back on the earth of our present) that the progressive and regressive amount to little outside the reverse sides of the same materialist coin. Add all of this to the fact that the majority mainly wants something which makes its life better and – above all else – easier and more convenient (not to mention cooler) in an almost exclusively material sense. Truly independent thinking, though, very rarely does any of the above; and in most cases accomplishes just the opposite in terms of socially-sanctified “results that count”.

Independent thinking, in the final analysis, might possibly be “good” for a least one thing: being able to live with oneself. Otherwise, it’s a damned bad idea if one wants to live in the same company of those around one in the present world we inhabit. If one makes too many waves in our world of the present (i.e., doesn’t think the “right” socially-culturally prescribed thoughts belonging to everyone else but especially the person standing right next to you), one can quickly end up in a situation where one basically no longer exists in the eyes of others – unless, of course, one has built up around oneself a group of like-minded Others or has joined an already existing group. But if groups are not one’s thing, one had better have at least one true friend or a sympathetic family member or two because otherwise – especially if one finds it impossible to engage in anything outside of independent thought – one is more or less on one’s own.

At this point it has occurred to me that it might be a good idea to pause and excuse myself for repeatedly using expressions such as “our world of the present” (i.e., any formulation where the word “present” is employed). This is due to the fact that throughout my writing here, I’ve found it impossible to get Søren Kierkegaard’s 1846 essay “The Present Age” – something I’ve known and loved for my entire adult life – for a single moment out of my mind. Written long before many of our specifically “local” concerns of the present (there it is again!) were imagined by the mainstream, Kierkegaard painted a portrait of our present revolutionary age – as opposed to a passionate age of revolt – with devastating accuracy:

“A passionate, tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but a revolutionary age, that is at the same time reflective and passionless, transforms that expression of strength into a feat of dialectics: it leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance. Instead of culminating in a rebellion it reduces the inward reality of all relationships to a reflective tension which makes the whole of life ambiguous: so that everything continues to exist factually whilst by a dialectical deceit, privatissime, it supplies a secret interpretation  that it does not exist.

(From: Søren Kierkegaard, “The Present Age”, translated by Alexander Dru.)

Certainly, the practice of official (or, in our time, clandestine) censorship of books, etc. is not a great thing. But compared with what transpires on a minute-by-minute basis within the so-called private spheres of a thoroughly conformist world such as ours, the now relatively outworn practice of the censorship of objects such as books almost pales to insignicance.

In light of the above, then, I can’t avoid the conclusion that it might be more productive to concern ourselves with something which decisively defines, in the end, our current state: the rigidly self maintained stranglehold of never leaving the invisible, closed circle endlessly rotating around the single point defined by our very own special, exclusive brand of materialist belief. We never get beyond the age-old straightjacket of “freely choosing” to exist within a worldview which elevates socially mandated, group-approved and group-controlled material “results that count” to what amounts to an inviolable Natural Law … those material results which always have to exist before we can think about anything which does not originate in and translate back into literally the same terms; namely, exclusively political / economic terms – the only terms which appear to be operative in our present reality; the ultimate reason why an illusory freedom is far worse than an absence of “the freedom of one’s feet to run along on the level”.

What might ligitimately be called non-illusory freedom just might amount, therefore, to finally going in a direction never gone in up to the present point in time – one directly contrary to the “human nature” which we have always, as a species, unquestionably obeyed above all other authorities. I’d like to think that this is what Lincoln meant when he said that we must disenthrall ourselves … not in the first instance from some evil dictator or system … but from ourselves in order to finally save ourselves along with our very best notions of what freedom, in reality, amounts to. Within the entirely new space which would be established by this kind disenthrallment, evil dictators and systems would cease to have a home – even before they had the chance to appear in the first place.

The artist and philosopher Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) had what still stands as an (art) historically unprecedented view of non-illusory freedom; one which perfectly mirrors in certain ways Lincoln’s notion of disenthrallment (including, in addition, some of what I’ve already written about above). Quite predictably, however, the “new space of freedom” Malevich has revealed, has made him into the most consistently misunderstood and neglected indispensable thinker and artist in his own time as well as ours – entirely independent, naturally, of the fact that “Malevich” is now a famous “brand-name” in art (along with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, and all the rest).

To express the matter in the most direct manner possible: Malevich has now been reduced to an artist and philosopher “understood” and interpreted in a specious and often outright mistaken sense; one which attempts to force the thought and art of Malevich into the mould of a characteristically American notion of “abstract art” lying in the opposite direction relative to Malevich’s actual thought (but none of this “Americanization” is at all new since it dates at least back to year 1945 – when America ‘won’ the war, dropped The Bomb, and took over everything which couldn’t be smuggled into some kind of secret hiding place unknown to the CIA).

I’m writing this about what essentially amounts to the suppression and censorship of Malevich’s profoundly anti-materialist thought and art because it should be kept in mind when one reads parts of the following sections of this essay in which I touch upon Malevich’s thoughts along with a number of related themes which expand upon what I have written above.

What follows are three thought-examples from different Malevich texts which go in the opposite direction away from the currently prevailing “mainstream ‘art’ and ‘world culture’ narratives”:

“What is the ideology of Art, my point of view on Art is that Art has no ideology, no idea, not even an image and if anyone finds ideologies in Art, he is first of all finding elements of an ideology that is imposed on Art and the Artist.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich in what is now called “Autograph Manuscript 2”, dating from Malevich’s 1927 stay in Berlin and published for the first time in: Kazimir Malevich, The World as Objectlessness; Kunstmuseum Basil, 2014).

https://www.abebooks.com/9783775737319/Kazimir-Malevich-World-Objectlessness-Simon-3775737316/plp

“The influence of economic, political, religious, and utilitarian phenomena on art is the disease of art.”

“Throughout the world the dictatorship of speculators in pursuit of profit has disfigured life, thus destroying art. Artistic culture has been replaced by speculation; but the new art, architecture, and painting of today is an indication that we are on the threshold of a great new classical age in art. Our contemporaries must understand that life will not be the content of art, but rather that art must become the content of life, since only thus can life be beautiful.”

(From: Kazimir Malevich, “Painting and the Problem of Architecture”, 1928; trans. Xenia Glowacki-Prus; from: K. S. Malevich, Essays on art – 1915-1933, ed. Troels Andersen; Copenhagen, 1968.)

“The shell on sensations grew and hid the creature that neither comprehension nor imagination can picture. Therefore, it seems to me that Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and others are that beautiful shell, the body, behind which the public cannot see the essence of the sensations of Art. If these sensations were to be taken out of the frames of the body, the public would not recognize them. Therefore the public accepts the depiction for the image of the essence hidden within it, which has no resemblence to the depiction. The face of the hidden essence of sensations can be completely contradictory to the depiction, if of course it is completely faceless, objectless.”

(From Kazimir Malevich: “Suprematism”; from: The World as Objectlessness, 1927; Kunstmuseum Basil; Hatje Kantz, 2014, p. 189.)

Malevich is writing in this last quote about the shell-like “surface” of illusion-based, “realistic” visual art … but which in the meantime is now embodied, as well, by “realism”-saturated digital photos, “realism”-saturated digital films and videos (commercial and / or otherwise) along with all the other “realism”-saturated digital stuff which now practically defines the Web – since it all amounts to one big happy “realism”-saturated communal world-wide family which everyone and their pet canary takes entirely for granted due to illusionistic images of hollow “life masks” (even when pure cartoon fantasy) having become – virtually in every sense of the word – the only means by which we now orient ourselves to and within what we imagine as our FREELY CHOSEN outer and “inner” worlds; the “realism”-saturated digital depiction of our entire universe having now more or less taken over as the primary survival / sense-making tool we possess as a species.

In Malevich’s terms, these illusory projections of material “reality” – these illusionistic “shells” which only obscure instead of revealing what actually sustains us as humans; these shell-like surfaces hide the objectless, faceless face of art; i.e., “the sensations of Art”. Therefore, we can only begin to talk about what Malevich really meant in the above passage when we finally confront art as opposed to our illusory culture – one which may be seen as a “mask” concealing a great many things, ideas and objects in our culture – but nevertheless a culture in which Malevich’s objectless, faceless face of art will never be found in the cultural mainstream.

Or … does anyone ever wonder why it’s the case in Malevich’s late paintings (if one is acquainted with them) that Malevich’s human figures often totally lack faces? (OK … I’ve just given out – entirely free of charge – a significant hint in the direction of addressing this question).

Stated differently: one can print Malevich’s iconic “Black Quadrat” on a T-shirt – and one can even comfortably wear it. But within the frame of the world which has produced our culture of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond – it’s virtually impossible to do what the principles of Malevich’s faceless face of Art demand of us in completely unambiguous terms: the total reversal of the object-worship embodied by the obsessive invention of narcissistic cultural fairy-tales – one which, for quite some time now, has progressively cut off the life-blood of the world we inhabit.

Ask nearly anyone randomly encountered in a public place and one will very likely learn what art in our culture now amounts to: above all else, “art” designates the popularly conceived greater-than-average manual skill for rendering – almost exclusively – the surface appearances of our world (i.e., in order to take the viewer / consumer on an effortless vacation / entertainment trip to a place the viewer / consumer already knows and just loves more than anything else to revisit time and time again) … and if one falls into the category of what is commonly considered to comprise “being a ‘good’ artist”, one can render surface appearances in a proficient manner; but if one can’t render surface appearances in a proficienct manner … well, one is judged to be “not such a ‘good’ artist” … End of Story … or, “Yes, yes … your ‘abstract’ pictures are really – well … REALLY NICE … but tell me if you don’t mind … did you – you know – ever learn how todraw?

On the one hand, therefore, “art” has been reduced to (1) nothing other than the elevation of learned craft; the strictly technically oriented over what Malevich has called the hidden essence of art – “the depiction [of] the image … which has no resemblence to the depiction”… in other words, what has been raised to the level of an cultural orthodoxy amounting to a total capitulation to the world of Material-Reality-As-It-Is-And-Nothing-Beyond; an enslavement to the (professionally well-made) illusionistic surface appearances of this world. (2) On the other hand, “serious art” has undergone the fatal reduction to “culture”; what composer Morton Feldman meant when he stated in 1976:

The big problem is that we have to differentiate too between culture and art. Art is done just by a few people. Culture is the manifestation. Publishers, students, teachers is culture. I’m a volunteer of culture, not art. And one of the things about culture, and I feel the young people are more aligned to culture, which again is society, than they are to the other things. Because in culture one has to have the illusion that one understands. You see? […]

That is not communication. Communication is what I have in my music, with myself. Do you know what communication is for me? Communication is when people don’t understand each other. That’s what communication is. Because then there is a consciousness level that is being brought out of you, where an effort is made.

[…] you’re not supposed to understand art. You are supposed to understand culture … and culture is just a department store which allows you to go and take what you want, if you can afford it.”

(From: “Conversation Between Morton Feldman and Walter Zimmermann” http://www.cnvill.net/mfzimmr.htm)

——-
About the author: David A. Powell is an American artist living in Germany since 1990. In addition to having a lifelong, ongoing involvement and fascination with the most radically unpopular ideas and concepts capable of being imagined by anyone, he has a degree in art history and literature and – along a number of other occupations and activities throughout his life – has also exhibited his paintings (in Germany, at least).

David A. Powell – Untitled (1969-2018) / Pastel on paper / 45×60 cm

%d bloggers like this: