Welcome! A Bridge of Magpies is a blog about culture and politics. Comments are welcome. Also, prophesies, curses, symbolic executions. Presuming I survive, I will always respond.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Scandal—the original Greek form refers to a trap with a springing mechanism, an obstacle, an aporia, set in advance.  And this is precisely the dramatic trope of our current political cycle.  A movement is set in motion, and then trapped.  The sequence appears spontaneous, but it is in fact over-determined by covert dynamics and a willfull blindness whose only purpose is to preserve the dramatic effects of the moment of surprise.  Scandal is a low form of entertainment, the perfect genre of collusion between the aesthetically inept political class and the television-addled demos.  The comedy is broad and infantile, the theme drawn from cartoon narrative such as the endless chase loop between Wily Coyote and the Roadrunner.  And the dramatic climax never varries.  Wily Coyote is scrambling in mid-air, impossibly suspended, until he looks down and realizes there’s no ground beneath his feet.
The obscene inflated figure of Donald Trump carries within its body both the system’s dynamic and its evoked disgust.  Who would not have guessed, long before the scandal’s October revelations, that Donald Trump had molested beauty queens, ridiculed veterans, and mocked the infirm?  Who would not have predicted the Clinton’s sanctimony in opposing him?
There is a true collusion between the political class and the working stiffs.  They each agree to perfrom for the other.  In a kind of escalating potlatch of despair, Donald offers himself as a figure of wickedness in America’s dark mirror—the Satanic mirror which tells unflattering truths to its preening subjects.  The return gift is mass derision and parody highlighted by a grotesque parade of victims crossing over into the space of the mirror.  They stare back at us bleakly and accusingly like the letter writers from Nathaniel West’s dystopic satire, Miss Lonelyhearts.  This becomes the fated moment of the election.  Clinton becomes the Miss Lonelyhearts candidate.  Trump becomes the Satanic editor Shrike.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


We can be certain that this drama is being played out in the theater of symbolic exchange.  So much for the possibility of becoming post-symbolic, though the wish to be so is perhaps stronger than ever.
We receive the gift of humiliation and terror.
Our shibboleth is a state of indifference and preoccupation.  The symbolic act attempts to pierce these—the act of an enemy no doubt, but it is by no means clear whether the piercing of our shibboleth, our shield, our armor, is a good thing or a bad thing.  Might we not wish to shed our indifference?  Shed our preoccupation?  If only we could.
It’s already been noted many times that we have mastered the art of waging war indifferently, without passion, by technological remote control, without the historically usual deliberation or thought…just because, so to speak.
But here is the problem for us.  The brutality and grotesquery of the slaughter subliminally speaks to some fragmented desire lurking beneath our indifference.  Desire for what?  For moral justification?  For an inexorable descent into violence?  For the continuation of some sort of virtual fantasy that springs out of real events?

Terror and humiliation circulates quickly throughout the networks.  We slough it off, project it, thoughtlessly.  Absorb it.  Sicken with it.  It leaves us.  It returns to us.  That small hooded man stands upon a precipice beyond his most banal and grandiose fantasies.  He is larger than life.  Briefly.  He will die and it will not matter.  There will be others.  This will be endless.  It exerts a kind of ecological balance, this war of terror, a balance  we have difficulty achieving elsewhere. Each side recoils into itself more deeply.  Technology against the atavistic.  The paradox of a de-stabilizing balance. How strange the stakes of history have become.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paint a Devil and Laugh

We find ourselves caught once again in a presidential election that is a game of unmasking.  A kind of  masquerade in which all candidates are too obviously costumed: adorned personages who hide the mundane or even hideous faces of a true politics beneath their finery.  The game becomes unmasking them by midnight—secret scandals brought to light, secret words that betray their true cynicism, moments of weakness, moments of hypocrisy.
This is the side show of shame—the electoral process of a nation filled with contempt for its government,  weary of its militaristic adventures, and shaken by the irreversible tick of history— a history that was once thought to have ended but has eerily continued on a posthumous basis.
Only the comedy of carnival redeems it, the feast of the flesh, the deep hollow laughter of our souls.  We need this release, this public catharsis, this unmasking of fools.  Secretly we understand that the democratic will exists now only as farce.  It is best forgotten, left on the other side of history. Our deepest demand now is for the comedy denied in the twilight of our techno-feudalism
Mitt Romney was sure to be unmasked.  He is nothing but masks and the only game with him is to get to the final mask and there find the ‘no face’ that is supporting the entire apparatus.  
But that ‘no face’ is not merely his lack of authenticity.  It is the face of empire and techno-feudalism.  We had best paint a devil over it, and laugh.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Australia’s Clive Palmer is planning to build and commercially sail an exact duplicate of the Titanic.  This endeavor is obviously an extension of cinematic imagination, which is to say it is second order protheses of imagination—that weakened faculty which depends more and more on technical artifice to remain alive.
Technology began according to the dictates of imagination.  Its function was to operationalize a wish.  But now the actual process of operationalizing eclipses the wish.  Perhaps the catalog of wishes is exhausted, and now we confront an age in which anything that can be operationalized will be operationalized.
But perhaps in the case of the duplicate Titanic the wish has survived in an unspoken and proscribed form.  Perhaps the secret wish, the object petit a, is to go down with the ship once again, to drown the virtual order (which is from its beginning haunted by death and absence anyway), and then to finally encounter the real by drowning and finding oneself buried in North Atlantic debris field.
One interpretation of our current age is that it evidences the symptom of traumatic repetition—the obsessive, continuing, too near visitation of the Lacanian real, the dead spot, the unspeakable rupture, in our symbolic order.  At the same time that we seek to replace the symbolic order with the virtual order, which would allow no traumatic eruption of the real just as the Titanic would not sink, a shadow returns to us.  Would not the helmsman of the new Titanic be tempted when an iceberg appears?


The public coma is itself a mysterious phenomenon.  The induction of a peculiar alienation from self interest—in America and in Europe the middle class was induced to vote against its own interests to essentially impoverish itself in a kind of auto-da-fe of moral rectitude. We must suffer.  We have been self indulgent.  We have been liberal and we have lost our values.  We are no longer self-reliant, thrifty.  We care too much for pleasure.
Grotesque figures danced before the electorate as if a comic book version of neoliberal ideology had come to life—Joe the Plumber, Sarkozy, Cameron, Palin.  Like a medieval carnival visible by the light of the burning middle class.
But perhaps the carnival of austerity is coming to an end and we are entering an even more dire  field of conflict.  Symptomatic of this new era is the decline of the influence of terror, both as an issue of foreign affairs and as a domestic goad—the terror of the falling economy.
Internationally the war on terror proceeds and there is no reason to believe that it will ever end.  But it is perhaps in a lull and certainly the public, to the degree that it evidences interest, demonstrates a kind of terror fatigue.  The war on terror has become less visible, more autonomic (especially in the weaponry of drones) and now has become an unsettlingly perverse background situation.  America never bothered to understand why its empire arouses such animosity, and so in a sense has secured its destiny in episodic stupidity—the fate of all empires.
And the domestic terror of a cyclic economy seems to have lost influence as well.  Hence the Greek and French ‘no’ to austerity, and to the techno-economics of neoliberalism.  The electorate is perhaps suffering from austerity fatigue and hypocrisy fatigue.  But the forever played and unplayed card, the apparently inexhaustible card, is fear of the other, and in jingoistic America where zombie films and post-apocalyptic fantasies play in our summer multiplexes, we will always prefer to make our political movements unconsciously so as not to disturb our dreams.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Sarkozy is no more, so Merkel now becomes the face of this joyless realism, of this reality which is perhaps all too real in the sense that the pose of ideological realism, the neoliberal pose a la Fukuyama that its ideology is the ultimate vision of what is real, the end of the debate about what is real and in that sense the end of history, leads only to a terrifying oppression.  This is an oppression without alternative, as Merkel would have it.  Except that now, as the electorate awakens, an alternative appears, and the possibility of something like socialism or economic justice opposes the fetishistic cruelty of Merkel’s real. She is the perfect figure for her role—the blunt, unadorned style of a chemist, as if oppression by the corporate elite was a modern science rather than a medieval scheme of alchemy.  And the electorate has only to challenge this oppression to draw out its archaic jingoism (“Germany will not pay for French socialism”)  and its reversion to terroristic prophecy.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Recent elections in Greece and France seem to indicate that the chickens have come home to roost, that the austerity measures so patently designed to keep the global casino afloat are no longer an easy sale to the populace who suffers from their effects.  The electorates have said ‘no’ to Sarkozy and to the stunning duplicity of flaunting a celebrity lifestyle while enforcing a policy of devalued labor and authoritarian oppression.  And the Greeks have said ’no’ to a series of enforced austerity measures that have brought them to their knees and offers them the bleakest of futures—wages that can buy nothing more than subsistence and the impossibility of release from fealty to the banking houses.  ‘No’ to the false realism of neoliberal economics.  ’No’ to the attempt to resurrect a newly punitive and righteous Big Other—the symbolic reign of hyper-capital, low wages, and the anhedonia of perpetual production, perpetual efficiency, and perpetual terror. 
Superficially at least, this chorus of no’s seems to give cause to rejoice.  It seems the electorate has finally and painfully come to its senses, has finally awakened from a long and deep somnambulance as if from a spell cast by Illuminati-type necromancers at work in the vaults of the World Bank.
This somnambulant, coma-like spell cast on the electorate is itself an enigmatic phenomenon and subject to varied and contradictory interpretation.  Merkel and Sarkozy would insist that it is nothing more than the spell of economic reality and to say ‘no’ to this is merely to return to the hallucinatory past of socialism—it is an hallucination to believe there is enough for everyone, it is an hallucination to believe that there is a public and a public interest that trumps the rights of free capital.